Nearly half of Earth's remaining mountain gorillas – only around 400 animals – live deeply secluded in Uganda’s Bwindi National Park. But now, tea planters want to clear-cut an adjoining buffer zone, Kafuga Pocket Forest Reserve. The destruction of the forest would push the critically endangered gorillas one step closer to extinction.
“We are prepared for people to start cutting down the forest at any time. Some of the tea nursery owners have already started buying axes and pangas,” notes Robert Tumwesigye Baganda, program director of Pro-biodiversity Conservationists in Uganda (PROBICOU).
Kafuga Forest is an ecological treasure trove with 200 species of trees, some of which only exist there. It is home to hundreds of species of birds, butterflies, rodents and even chimpanzees. The 250-hectare forest reserve is a vital ecological island surrounded by tea plantations and the fields of subsistence farmers. Many locals rely on the forest as a source of fruit, medicinal plants and small quantities of firewood.
Kafuga Forest was once a part of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, one of the last refuges for mountain gorillas. Today it serves as a buffer between human settlements and the gorilla habitat. Environmentalists therefore warn that the destruction of the forest will endanger the remaining gorillas: without the buffer zone, human encroachment on Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is virtually inevitable.
Robert Tumwesigye Baganda’s organization PROBICOU has been working with local communities to raise 30,000 saplings for planting in Kafuga Forest to mitigate damage in recent years and secure its future. But now, the very existence of the forest hangs in the balance.
Please call on the Ugandan Minister of Water and Environment and the local authorities to protect Kafuga Pocket Forest Reserve. The survival of the gorillas must not be jeopardized for tea plantations. Rainforest Rescue ask to sign on a letter to the Ugandan Minister of Water and Environment.