Friday, March 26, 2010

More Uganda

Felt like writing a little more about Uganda:

Gorillas are almost entirely herbivorous (they eat some insects, apparently).  We were watching the silverback try to eat a small green vine going up a 25-foot tree, but it snapped when he tried to pull it down.  No problem, though - he stood up and wrenched the whole tree down, putting the entire vine in easy reach.  Gorillas are like small elephants, changing the balance between trees and ground cover in the forest.

A lot of the gorillas spend a significant amount of time foraging in neighboring farms and not just the forest.  Understandable when Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is so small (about 20 by 15 kilometers) and the farmland used to be habitat, but you can also sympathize with subsistence farmers living on less than $2 a day when their tiny plots are torn up by gorillas.  The average woman has 7 to 9 children in her lifetime - they say they need to keep some children home from school to chase wildlife away from their fields.  The organization we volunteered with, Conservation Through Public Health, has a family planning program that attempts to persuade people that smaller families are better.  I've also thought that programs elsewhere to compensate people for damage to their farms, or to pay them to create buffer areas, could be good models to apply at Bwindi.

We did a river wildlife cruise at Queen Elizabeth National Park that was fantastic.  The birdlife in particular was amazing - I'm an indifferent birder overseas where I have no hope of absorbing much understanding, but these were great.

Congo seems to be improving somewhat - we were right on the border and there's lots of traffic.  Rwanda is already open for tourists.  North Uganda, previously dangerous, is now settling down some.  Some good signs in this.  OTOH, we heard that Rwanda wasn't as careful as Uganda in controlling the level of exposure that gorillas, susceptible to human diseases, have to tourists.

Everyone in Uganda and Dubai seemed happy to see Obama as president, although many didn't expect great things either, just less war.

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