Archive for March, 2010

White Nile River Basin Expedition – Bwindi NF

March 29, 2010

Welcome to #5 in a series of blogs written by Alison Jones before her departure to Uganda and Kenya as NWNL’s lead photographer.

gorillas

Mountain gorilla chewing on a vine

Date: Mon–Wed, 29–31 March 2010 /Entry 5
Reporter: Alison M. Jones
Location: Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest

Today I arrive at Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest in the southwest corner of Uganda for a couple days. This World Heritage Site is a dense rainforest still intact from the last ice age. On these Albertine Rift Valley ridges, with elevations ranging from 3,805 to 8,553 feet (1160–2607 m), there are many gorges, streams and waterfalls, habitat to 90 mammal species, 100 fern species and 23 endemic forest bird species. The world-renowned highlight of this forest is its relatively large population of mountain gorillas. Bwindi has more than half of the world’s remaining population (about 330 of 600) of this endangered species. What must they think of the human footprint?

From the field, 29 March: It’s the rainy season here in this 40 mile long chain of volcanoes. Mist hangs over the montane forest ecosystem, which include bamboo forests and hagenia-hypericum woodlands. The flight here from Mburo NP over “the Switzerland of Africa” revealed lush green farmland made fertile by abundant rain and rich volcanic soil. First – bananas, bananas, bananas, and then on arrival in Kyonza we noted tea plantations, similar to land cover around the perimeter of Kenya’s Mau Forest. Tomorrow we will visit the local Bwindi Community Micro Hydro Power Project on the Munyga River and trek to see the gorillas here in the 25,000 years old Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. We are hoping all of today’s rain will mean clear skies for tomorrow, but we are told it rains daily here.

1 April: Yesterday I spent 9 hours in a gruelling chase up and down vine-filled, muddy ravines in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to finally find the group of 18 gorillas. Interesting to learn the “value” of both this tropical forest and the gorillas. The forest is the faucet of the White Nile River Basin. In Rwanda, 80% of the country’s water supply comes from the forests the mountain gorillas inhabit. Without the tourism dollars of those wanting to see these primates, the forest would be cut down to make room for more crop fields. So the gorilla’s presence is a great conservation tool for the forests. As well, every night each group of gorillas settles down in separate new “nests” after breaking branches and clearing an open spot. This allows cleared space for new forest vegetation to grow. I think of the parallel role of wolves in the upper reaches of the Mississippi River Basin where their presence helps keep elk away from riverine vegetation, as NWNL documented a year ago.

White Nile River Basin Expedition – Lake Mburo

March 28, 2010

Welcome to #4 in a series of blogs written by Alison Jones before her departure to Uganda and Kenya as NWNL’s lead photographer.

Pink-backed pelicans, Kenya

Pink-backed pelicans, Kenya

WINGS logo

Date: Sat–Mon, 27–29 March 2010 /Entry 4
Reporter: Alison M. Jones
Location: Lake Mburo National Park

We leave Entebbe now, and for the next 15 days NWNL will be investigating conservation and stewardship in the vulnerable White Nile River Basin. My focus will be on sustainable resource management that can protect the region’s ecosystems and species – including humans. Degradation and poverty in this White Nile sub-watershed foreshadow future problems elsewhere in the greater Nile River Basin and throughout Africa. This month’s devastating mudslides in Uganda’s White Nile headwaters are said to be due to uncontrolled deforestation and settlement, much like the conditions NWNL has documented in the Mara River Basin’s Mau Forest. The human impacts of these disasters range from no access to water, to water-related diseases, and conflicts over natural resource usage.

There are consequences for the watershed’s renowned wildlife as well. Lake Mburo National Park’s acacia woodland and kopjes are home to roan, eland, impala, zebra, waterbuck and 310 bird species. In the park’s five lakes, there are hippo, crocs and sitatunga. Red, black- and yellow-crowned gonolek are found in papyrus swamps. I particularly look forward to a boat trip that will provide access to 26 species of open-water birds include pink-backed and white pelicans, darter, fish eagle, long-tailed and greater cormorant, white-winged black tern, pied kingfisher, African finfoot, great white egret, and night heron.

From the field: Entebbe’s Botanical Garden is a great introduction to indigenous species of flora and bird species in the White Nile River Basin. I was as thrilled by the small, finch-like bronze mannequins as I was by a pair of great blue turacos flying over an umbrella tree. A recently painted sign at the entrance set the tone for visitors – and all of us around the world:
1. The human understanding is limited by the available knowledge.
2. Utilization of our biological resources is based on our understanding at a given time.
3. Therefore the search for more knowledge must continue so that we understand our biological resources better, thus utilize them optimally.
4. As we do search and utilize, let us conserve for the future. Who knows what? The future outlook may be different.

White Nile River Basin Expedition – Entebbe 3/27

March 27, 2010

Welcome to #3 in a series of blogs written by Alison Jones before her departure to Uganda and Kenya as NWNL’s lead photographer.

Gathering water from Lake Victoria

Gathering water from Lake Victoria

Date: Saturday, 27 March 2010 /Entry 3
Reporter: Alison M. Jones
Location: Entebbe

This morning, before a late afternoon flight to Lake Mburo, I will begin NWNL’s focus on the impacts of disease, human settlement and infrastructure here at the source of the Nile that thus affect one third of Africa’s populations residing in and depending on the natural resources of the Nile River Basin. Our research has shown that climate change, population growth, pollution and dams are currently threatening the natural resources and balance of this watershed. Nile watershed issues NWNL is studying here include:

– Forest and wetlands: The headwaters face deforestation, dams and increasing settlement.
– Lake Victoria: Pollution and invasive species threaten the livelihoods of 30 million lakeshore inhabitants.
– Climate change: Increases in floods and droughts are greatly impacting this watershed.

From the field: Entebbe’s Botanical Garden is a great introduction to indigenous flora and bird species in the White Nile River Basin.  I was as thrilled by the small, finch-like bronze mannequins as I was by a pair of great blue turacos flying over an umbrella tree. A recently painted sign at the entrance set the tone for visitors – and all of us around the world:

1. The human understanding is limited by the available knowledge.
2. Utilization of our biological resources is based on our understanding at a given time.
3. Therefore the search for more knowledge must continue so that we understand our biological resources better, thus utilize them optimally.
4. As we do search and utilize, let us conserve for the future. Who knows what? The future outlook may be different.

White Nile River Basin Expedition – Entebbe 3/26

March 26, 2010

Welcome to #2 in a series of blogs written by Alison Jones before her departure to Uganda and Kenya as NWNL’s lead photographer.

Map of Uganda

Date: Friday, 26 March 2010 /Entry 2
Reporter: Alison M. Jones
Location: Entebbe

I arrive today in Entebbe to begin documenting Uganda’s White Nile River Basin. I plan to spend the afternoon in Jinga, the source of the White Nile on Lake Victoria. Here this western arm of the Nile begins its 2300-mile (3700-km) journey to meet the Blue Nile at Khartoum, Sudan. But before reaching that confluence, two arms of the White Nile come together in southern Uganda. The eastern Victoria Nile tumbles in a northwest direction from L. Victoria through the chasm of Murchison Falls into Lake Albert. The more westerly Albert Nile forms at a higher elevation from early trickles in the Rwenzori Mountains, known as the Mountains of the Moon. These mountains are rapidly losing their glaciers due to climate change which will likely produce a reduced flow to the Nile in upcoming years.

From the field: Welcome to the Pearl of Africa! Entebbe is directly on Lake Victoria. Our flight in from Kenya under heavy clouds revealed lush green vegetation and red clay roads. Settlement in Entebbe environs is on hilltops because surrounding each one are rivers of papyrus swamps, some of which have bridges crossing over these “swamp-ways.”

This afternoon NWNL will meet its White Nile River Basin expedition partner who will facilitate our documentation, photography and in-situ research. NAPE is the National Assoc. of Professional Environmentalists. It covers Uganda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa working to promote sustainable and equitable management of natural resources.

White Nile River Basin Expedition – Uganda

March 24, 2010

Welcome to #1 in a series of blogs written by Alison Jones before her departure to Uganda and Kenya as NWNL’s lead photographer.

Map of Uganda

Date: Tuesday, 23 March/Entry 1
Reporter: Alison M. Jones

This is NWNL’s 11th expedition to document its 6 case-study watersheds in Africa and North America. It will be our first trip to Uganda’s White Nile Basin, although we have already conducted two expeditions to Ethiopia’s Blue Nile River Basin. The Nile River Basin, one of NWNL’s six case-study watersheds, is very important in that one third of Africa’s populations reside in and depend on the natural resources of the Nile River Basin. In Uganda, I will photograph the two White Nile tributaries, the Victoria Nile and the Albert Nile and investigate conservation of forest and wetland habitats and ecosystems. To do this I will visit the following National Parks: Lake Mburu, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Lake Elizabeth, Kibale Forest, Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley.

After two weeks in Uganda, NWNL will return to Kenya’s Mara River Basin to document it in the rainy season, after having spent a month in that watershed last fall at the end of a three-year drought. I will be based in the Mara Conservancy. I have documented this area since 1985 and support this community-based model of conservation management since its launch in 2000. I will investigate the current status of implementation of its new Ten Year Management Plan for the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

The difficulties of blogging from the field while in Africa have led me to write point-to-point descriptions of our itinerary before departing. On return to New York, I will post actual experiences, so keep following this blog. It will be a fascinating journey. Meanwhile, if I have the ability to post from the field it will follow the prepared text in italics.

From the field: I left NYC three hours late on Monday March 22 due to a driving rain storm and arrived in Nairobi the next day in a pelting thunderstorm. After fog and a wet windshield caused me to miss the road to James Robertson’s – my Nairobi base for the next two days before flying to Uganda – I arrived to the chirp of frogs and the guardian gazes of three Rothschild giraffes.

The next two days I will have meetings here in Nairobi that will update me on the conditions In Kenya’s Mara River Basin. Our 1-month 2009 expedition in the Mara watershed ended October 15 – the day the rains broke a destructive 3-year drought. They were greatly welcome. Now the more fierce El Niño March/April rains are pounding Kenya, displacing perhaps more people than the drought and expected to last through May. After a quick bowl of tomato soup, I am off to bed. La la salama – Good night!

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