The Semliki Chimpanzee Project
SCP was founded in 1996 by Indiana University Professor Kevin Hunt. He and his team work to document the unique attributes of the chimpanzees of the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve, particularly with regard to their unusually dry habitat and to conserve the chimpanzee population in perpetuity. As part of the research side of SCP, the director—or more often, an assistant—records which individuals are seen, and where, what food items the chimpanzees are eating, what social behaviors they are engaging in, and what parts of the habitat they are using. SCP collects chimpanzee feces and examines it for evidence of their diet. Chimpanzees make a ‘sleeping platform’ or ‘nest‘ each night; we record a number of variables that describe these nests in an effort to understand the meaning of the behavior and clues it might provides for other aspects of chimpanzee sociality, such as group size and social patterns. While the project takes an interest in the entire TSWR chimpanzee population, the vast majority of SCP’s attention goes to the Mugiri Community, the population closest to the center of the reserve.
Few 21st century wild primate research projects can endure without a parallel conservation program. As part of our conservation initiative we report to reserve law enforcement any illegal or suspicious activity in the reserve. We destroy snares and other evidence of human activity in the reserve, and we investigate any of these activities we find. The presence of our staff and the existence of trails are conservation initiatives in their own right. Poachers who hear humans approaching or see evidence of human activity in the forest seldom have the time to determine whether the people are law enforcement officers or researchers; they often flee. Trails allow UWA Rangers to partrol more effectively. The presence of our staff maintaining trails allows us to monitor the forest, and as with researchers, presence of staff in itself discourages intruders.