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Natural and cultural heritage

Effects of long-term primatological research and conservation in African forests

Great Ape Sustainability in Africa

Sustainability, while often viewed as a localized issue, is realistically one of global concern. While developing countries, like Uganda, battle issues of population growth and overwhelming poverty, industrialized countries, like Denmark, struggle to manage their compounding ecological footprint. In either case, biodiversity as well as long-term human development suffer. While the number of protected resource management areas (i.e., national parks, forest reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, etc.) has continued to grow over the past 30 years across Africa, the integrity of most are compromised as human pressures like deforestation and poaching threaten their present livelihood and long-term sustainability. This begets the question, how do human practices impact biodiversity and sustainability on a local and global level, and how can we build continuity between humans and conservation? Long-term research sites provide a unique avenue for investigating these issues locally across time. Anecdotal evidence and research has suggested long-term research ‘science-safeguarding’ practices can benefit not only biodiversity via a protective presence, but also local human populations through educational outreach, economic growth and the protection of cultural heritage. This suggests that long-term scientific research can play an important role in a shift from unsustainable “fortress conservation” models to a community-based forms of conservation that facilitate social sustainability and local capacity building. What is needed is robust research based knowledge that identifies best practices for achieving this important end. By combining human and social science and the natural sciences this interdisciplinary project will establish the required knowledge base.  

Social sustainability, biodiversity, and chimpanzee population viability in KNP

Location of Kanyawara (KCP basecamp) in Kibale National Park, Uganda.

Our project will focus first locally by using the Kibale Chimpanzee Project (KCP) as a test case to analyze how long-term research projects and continuous researcher presence can help promote social, cultural, ecological, and biological sustainability in Africa. We aim to create a model of operation with objective criteria for developing future natural and cultural heritage research projects. This requires an integrative, collaborative approach that employs both social and empirical scientific methods to find workable solutions to real problems. This project will combine qualitative interviews, sustainability theory, macro-ecological analysis (including GIS), and quantitative data collection (e.g. remote sensing data on land cover change, animal abundance data, illegal activity data, etc.) to improve knowledge about the potential benefits of long-term research in advancing sustainable development. We will also collaborate with local conservation-related NGOs, the Kibale Snare Removal Program a conservation initiative of KCP and the Kasiisi Project, to achieve these goals. The delicate balance between the needs of humanity and nature must be steadied if research and conservation efforts are to succeed on a global scale to promote long-term sustainability.

A decade of deforestation in and around Kibale National Park

Preliminary remote satellite sensing data shows that while deforestation occurs at a higher rate outside Kibale National Park compared to within, there is still some evidence of deforestation inside the park. However, the KCP area (Kanyawara) where researcher presence is continuous and high shows not only a reduction in deforestation compared to the other areas inside the park, but also evidence of regrowth from 2000 to 2010. This suggests that while protected areas provide some defense from deforestation, continuous researcher presence has an even greater compounding positive effect. Our project will continue to focus on these types of ecological measures to evaluate the effectiveness of researcher presence on great ape habitat, viability, and sympatric biodiversity.

Percent tree cover inside and outside of Kibale National Park in 2000 and 2010.

Chimpanzee Conservation in Kibale National Park, Uganda

Documentary produced by Jane Goodall Institute, Netherlands.

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Recent News

2015.05.27 | Kibale Sustainability Project

Chimps losing lives and limbs to the 'landmines of the forest'

The Guardian reports on the Kibale Snare Removal Program directed by postdoc Jessica Hartel.

2015.03.03 | Kibale Sustainability Project

In honor of World Wildlife Day, please do not support the illegal live trade of great apes!

Video produced by Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

Bono, a juvenile male chimpanzee, lost his right hand to a snare.

2015.02.19 | Kibale Sustainability Project

Snared today, gone tomorrow: Landmines in the forest

Peter Kjærgaard and Jessica Hartel blog about an adventure in Uganda with the Kibale Chimpanzee Project.

Jess collecting data on wild chimpanzees at Kanyawara in Kibale National Park, Uganda

2014.11.01 | Kibale Sustainability Project, Natural and cultural heritage

Jessica Hartel, New Postdoc

Jessica Hartel is a primatologist with experience working in both captive and wild environments with a variety of primate species. Her research at the Center for Biocultural History focuses on the Kibale Chimpanzee Project as a test case to objectively quantify and analyze how long-term research projects can promote both natural and cultural…

Project Team


This project is funded by the Centre for Biocultural History at Aarhus University in Denmark.

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Facebook: Centre for Biocultural History, Kibale Chimpanzee Project, Kasiisi Project

Twitter: @BiocultureAU

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