Uganda Gorilla Conservation

I drove from Kigali, the capitol of Rwanda, across the border of Uganda and through the
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where I was scheduled to meet up with Stephen Rubanga,
co-founder of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), a non-profit organization
helping to save gorillas. The process of getting to Uganda was long, but well worth the effort.

Watch video of the trip here.

After driving across the Rwanda/Uganda border, we passed through the town of Kabale.
The blank tanks above for sale are an important method of keeping clean water in Africa.

I had to go all the way to Uganda to find the "Miami Hotel" and a Coke.

Local textile store.

This tree is full of yellow billed kits. I was so excited during my previous trips to southern Africa to find a handful
of these birds in a single trip. Driving through Rwanda and Uganda I saw literally thousands of them.

Driving through a Uganda village.

A large party (perhaps a wedding) going on.

All the guests had to park along the road and hike across the field to get to the party.

Unlike the terraced hills of Rwanda, Uganda farmers plant their crops directly on the steep slopes.

Uganda is directly on the equator, but because of it's high elevation, it has a much more temperate climate.

The turn off to Buhoma, where I will meet Stephen from CTPH. This is where the asphalt ends and the fun begins.

Here are some photos I took while we were driving, using my RC helicopter and GoPro camera.

Colobus monkey

Abay my driver and his partner in the back, "Baboon."

Going through the checkpoint of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home to some of the densest vegetation on the planet.

Aerial view of Bwindi

The village of Buhoma, gorilla research outpost for CTPH and set on the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Flying my helicopter through downtown Buhoma. People weren't quite sure what they were seeing.

At the base of the mountain ready to start trekking and searching for gorillas.

The two Ugandan Wildlife Authority rangers that hiked with us.

One of the UWA rangers who blazes the trails through the bush and helps find the gorillas.
The machete he is carrying is worn thin from all the sharpening over the years.
A little negotiation and I got him to sell me the machete. He got money for a new one (plus some extra)
and I got a cool souvenir to take home, something that is not for sale in the markets.

Bananas are very comfortable in the Ugandan climate as it neither gets too hot or cold.

Hiking up mountain. The porter in back has a Michigan Stat sweatshirt that a previous visitor gave her.

A giant wasp nest in the tree mad primarily of mud.

One of the UWA rangers following up the path we just created.

A gorilla nest from the previous day. . . . a good sign!

Carrying the video equipment. A research assistant on the trip carried my still camera.

My first up-close sighting of a gorilla.

Baby gorilla playing with his mother.

While I was filming the dominant male, a baby gorilla came up to me and put his hand on my knee.
He was reaching for the fuzzy microphone cover, which I must admit, does look like a giant gorilla finger.

The male silver back chewing leaves. It is amazing that these primates can get so large eating nothing but leaves and the
occasional berry or red ant.

The silver back of the silverback.

One serious hand.

After an exhilarating time with the gorillas, it was time to hike back to the base of the mountain. I spent two separate
days hiking through the impenetrable forest. The first day took about 8 hours and the second day about 5 hours.
It is definitely not an adventure for the indoor types or those who aren't willing to put in some serious effort.

Hiking these steep mountains is a challenge and a walking stick and gloves helped a lot. The walking stick helped pull me
up the hill and coming back down, I stuck the stick in the dirt below and hopped down to that level. Walking really
wasn't an option. Absolutely everyone (including the park rangers and porters) slipped and fell over on these slippery slopes.

A house at the edge of the forest.

Drying millet to make cereal.

Local crafts people welling their wares on the way up to the forest.

A local church and orphanage.

Sunday service lets out on our way back down.

The ranger points out a chameleon in the tree.


Conservation Through Public Health

Christmas came early this year for the scientists of the Gorilla Research Clinic in Buhoma, Uganda.
The Rare Species Fund (RSF) received the Clinic's wish list and set to work helping to make it a better holiday season for the gorillas and some local inhabitants of southwestern Uganda. Instead of using a sleigh to deliver a sack of toys, the RSF arrived at the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in a Land Rover carrying cases full of scientific equipment. 

Included in this delivery were more than 3,000 test tubes for samples, a vortex mixer with attachments, pipettes, centrifuge adapters, 3 digital cameras, a laptop computer, microscope light bulbs and even a case of crypto-giardia tests that required refrigeration all the way from T.I.G.E.R.S. Preserve in South Carolina to the jungles of Uganda. This donation is considered quite significant as these materials are all but impossible to come by in such a remote location. 

The Gorilla Research Clinic is run by Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH). Conservation Through Public Health addresses one of the primary conservation issues surrounding some of the last mountain gorillas by monitoring gorilla, human and livestock health. Mountain gorillas are highly endangered...approximately only 800 currently exist. 

These gorillas are highly protected by local authorities but one of the most serious threats lies in their similarity to humans and their susceptibility to many of the same diseases. This is of particular concern in Uganda where more than a third of the population is living on less than $1.50 per day. CTPH not only monitors gorilla health but their extensive community outreach programs educate local villagers about proper hygiene, livestock management and disease prevention helping to address the problem at the source. 

Equipment in Myrtle Beach, waiting to be packed up and transported to Uganda.

Stephen picked me up on his motorbike and we took the bumpy road to the research station. . . . an adventure unto itself.

Stephen showing me the current research station.

Diagnostic field work being done.

Stephen is explaining the CTPH goals and plans for the future.

An aerial view of the Volcanoes lodge I stayed at in Buhoma.

The staff watching the helicopter watching them.

The local hospital supported by the Volcanoes Lodge.