… WHEN CHARLOTTE ENJOYS THE SIGHT OF BUSH BUCKS WITHOUT PAYING BIG BUCKS
(Posted 04th September 2020)
In the eleventh of a series, Charlotte Beauvoisin shares some of her #LockdownDiaries from Kibale Forest in Western Uganda. Scroll down to read the first stories.
It’s pitch black on the edge of Kibale Forest.
I’m woken by the bark of a bushbuck, that is quickly joined by the barking of one of our dogs.
It’s 5.30 a.m.
On our walks along the forest-edge, senior site guide Silver has frequently picked out the footprints of a bushbuck but, even after two years living here, I had never seen one. The Bushbuck had become a quasi-mythical creature to me (in fact I doubted I would ever see one).
It wasn’t until lockdown that the bushbuck revealed themselves to me.
With Sunbird Hill closed to both visitors and staff, human presence was at a minimum.
One morning I was amazed to hear the ugly bark of a bushbuck right next to my house. I looked in the direction of the noise and straight into the animal’s pretty face, visible through the gaps in the wooden fence.
As the weeks passed, I started seeing Bushbucks every afternoon, emerging from the three-metre high elephant grass.
I was intrigued.
Has the reduced human presence encouraged the Bushbuck to be bolder? Have the overgrown walking trails given them better cover? Or are there other explanations that have nothing at all to do with lockdown? Is their presence merely seasonal?
According to Julia Lloyd, the owner of Sunbird Hill, “It could simply be that the regenerating farmland is maturing and wildlife is responding to that.”
More than three months of lockdown passed before I saw Silver. I couldn’t wait to tell him of my frequent bushbuck sightings.
I tell him I have seen the Bushbucks close to my house. He is surprised and smiles.
“But what can we do to stop them being poached?” I ask. “I’m worried that their loud barks give them away.” Sunbird Hill is on private land that touches the boundary with Kibale National Park. Rangers patrol the Protected Area but beyond that, there is little protection for wildlife.
“We need to patrol,” Silver tells me. “We need to find and cut and remove the snares. When the poachers see someone around, they will soon give up. We also need to sensitise the community. People are idle,” Silver adds.
His last three words gives me a whole new perspective on the situation. Poaching is not just about poverty; nor is it only opportunism. Poaching also happens because people don’t have much else to do right now.
Silver explains how the best time for a poacher to set a snare is after the elephants have visited. As I have seen for myself – and shared in this series of stories – elephants create their own new trails through the bush. “Follow the fresh elephant dung and it may lead you to some snares,” Silver explains. “Poachers take advantage of where the elephants have broken down the vegetation. They set snares where the elephants have created trails.”
Conversations with Silver are always illuminating. He tells me the story of a bushbuck that killed a boy whose father had poached a bushbuck. “They can be vengeful,” he says.
We have heard about an increase in poaching across Africa. We’ve also noticed how our neighbours are cutting more trees for charcoal. The environment is under more pressure than ever.
(Besides elephants, bucks and birds does Charlotte also enjoy the sights of other living beings at the Edge of Kibale Forest)
If you enjoyed this story, look out for the next one in this series, exclusively here on www.ATCNews.org, written by Charlotte Beauvoisin.
The first stories in this series are: