Location: the Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda, where you will study primates in the their natural habitat, and explore the interactions between humans, chimpanzees and other primates.
This is a fascinating and awe-inspiring opportunity for people who to use travel to not only see but help change the world. You spend almost two weeks in the rainforest of Uganda volunteering at the Budongo Conservation Field Station. Here’s how the Earthwatch Institute—an organization that says its mission is to partner volunteers with scientists and field projects around the world in pursuit of sustainable solutions and what’s good of the planet—describes the opportunity:
As food supplies decline, chimps in the Budongo Forest are raiding farmers’ crops. What is causing the decline in food? How can the area support both farmers and primate foragers? In the Budongo Forest Reserve in Uganda, fruit production by forest trees is mysteriously declining. As a result, chimps and other primates are raiding local subsistence farms.
Dr. Fred Babweteera of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, along with graduate students from Makerere University, Kampala, is studying the foraging habits of primates and the pollination and fruiting cycles of fruit trees with the goal of developing new approaches to sharing resources between people and primates—and they need your help.
On this expedition you meet humans’ closest relatives in their natural habitat. About 700 chimpanzees live in the Budongo Forest Reserve, the largest remaining tropical rainforest in East Africa and there are four other major primate species there. You team up with field assistants at the Budongo Conservation Field Station to observe chimps and other primates as they forage for food in the morning and late afternoon.
You’ll learn to identify trees and work with researchers to monitor them, set and empty insect traps, and label and preserve the collected insects for later identification. You’ll help write up the data, and relax at the research camp, enjoy sports with members of the Reserve staff, or walk the “Royal Mile” to take in the natural beauty of the rainforest.
Day 1 Rendezvous in Entebbe, drive to Budongo Conservation Field Station
Day 2 Safety briefing and training day. Begin transect work in the afternoon
Days 3–6 Daily activities include: following primates, hiking surveys of plants/insects, interviewing locals
Days 7–8 Recreational days
Days 9–10 Daily activities include: following primates, hiking surveys of plants/insects, interviewing locals
Day 11 Finish fieldwork, debriefing in evening
Day 12 Return to Entebbe, depart
What You Do in the Field
Set off for the forest at 7:00 a.m. You’ll either return to camp for lunch or carry a packed lunch and work until about 4:00 p.m. While out in the forest (depending on the day), you will:
- Follow foraging primates. Track primates (chimpanzees, blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, and/or colobus monkeys) as they look for food. You’ll record where they go and what fruits they eat.
- Hike to record vegetation. Help the scientists understand why many tree species are no longer bearing fruit by recording which trees have fruit and by monitoring the rainfall and temperature throughout the forest.
- Record pollinators. While you’re hiking, you’ll count pollinators like bees and butterflies found in specific areas and collect specimens that you’ll log back at the research station.
- Survey community members. Interview people who live near the reserve to find out when and how often primates raid their crops, so researchers can correlate raids with the timing of fruit growth in the forest.
At camp and on the weekend, you’ll have opportunities to relax and socialize. On the weekend, you can opt to go shopping at local markets in the town of Masindi, or relax by the pool at the nearby Kinyara Sugar Works.
Length/Departs: 14 days/Feb., April, June, July, Aug., Oct.
Accommodations: Rainforest camp
Price/Contribution: $3,050 USD, but must verify current pricing with Earthwatch Institute.
Note: people aged 15-17 welcome to join if accompanied by parent or guardian