Timeline: Important Events in the History of the Semliki Chimpanze Project
Late 1993, early 1994: SCP founder and director Hunt publishes two articles on his
research on Tanzanian chimpanzees (K.D. Hunt 1993. The mosaic
lifeway of the early australopithecines: piecing in some fragments
from the world of the chimpanzee. Anthroquest 47: 3–7; K.D.
Hunt 1994. The evolution of human bipedality: ecology and
functional morphology. Journal of Human Evolution 26: 183-202)
suggesting that dry habitats place selective pressure on apes to
harvest fruits bipedally, leading to the evolution of bipedalism.
1994 Hunt explores the possibility of studying dry-habitat
chimpanzees at the Semliki Wildlife Reserve; contacts Jonathan
Wright, bidder for a Semliki tourism concession.
October, 1995 Hunt and Wright agree agree to cooperate, should Wright’s bid
be accepted by UWA
July, 1996 Hunt submits research proposal to Ugandan authorities, including
a proposal for a three-room research station in the chimpanzee range
July 7-October 5, 1996 Hunt’s first research stint at Semliki
July 12, 1996 Hunt ‘s first chimpanzee observation in Mugiri gallery forest, at
M1.7 (see map)
July 16, 1996 Hunt observes a juvenile male at Mugiri for 48 minutes
August, 1996 Three local staff are hired to slash trails (Esmail Obur, Eriik
Kasutama and Karamajong Kule); trail construction begins
August 1996 Survey of reserve finds chimpanzees at Muzizi and Nyabaroga,
in addition to those known at Wasa and Mugiri
September First project vehicle purchased, a 1987 Suzuki Jimny (Samurai)
Late September, 1996 Assistant Rachel Weiss arrives to continue research and
Early 1997 Hunt receives US $19,000 National Science Foundation Grant
to conduct research at Semliki
June 16, 1997 ADF rebels attack Local Defense Forces and UPDF in Bundibugyo,
20 km from the reserve, killing scores; research suspended for
the first time. Hunt’s assistant returns to US
July 10, 1997 Hunt and UWA game guards return to Semliki
July 1997 Hunt observes chimp leave night nest for first time
July 1997 As trails reach upper escarpment, 60 snares removed over month-
long period; afterward, fewer poachers seen in reserve
August 12, 1997 Hunt observes chimp digging drinking well; first observation of
this phenomenon anywhere
August 20, 1997 Hunt meets with local government and UWA boundary
committee to appeal to include Nyabaroga chimpanzee habitat in
reserve; ultimately 5 sq. km were added
August 31, 1997 Climate monitoring begins (min-max temp, humidity, rainfall and
September, 1998 Jim Latham takes over as APD
January 27, 1998 Hunt returns for third stint at reserve
February 9, 1998 Hunt follows chimp to night nest for first time
February 10, 1998 Hunt unnests same female
February 15, 1998 Hunt observes an individual adult male for 144 minutes
March, 1998 Chief Warden John Makombo receives information that a juvenile
chimpanzee was speared in a shamba at the top of the
June 9, 1998 ADF burn dormitory in Kichwamba contiguous to reserve; 40
July 1998 With completion of Kyankara trail, trail system virtually complete
September 4, 1998 Game Guard George Tuhairwe encounters a lion in the
chimpanzee range, at Main Entrance
March 2, 1999 Eight tourists killed at Bwindi in southern Uganda;
US Peace Corps pulls out of Uganda;
NALU declares westerners murder targets
March 10–21, 1999 Hunt on brief visit; nests chimpanzee at site of proposed Research
Center on March 16
March, 1999 Hunt receives US $109,000 National Science Foundation Grant
to continue research at Semliki
March, 1999 First publication on Semliki research, an abstract (K.D. Hunt,
A.J.M. Cleminson, J. Latham, R.I. Weiss and S. Grimmond. 1999.
A partly habituated community of dry-habitat chimpanzees in the
Semliki Valley Wildlife Reserve, Uganda. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol.
Suppl. 28: 157.)
May, 1999 ADF rebels attack Kibale National Park; 4 killed;
Assistant James Fuller continues research at Semliki uninterrupted
July, 1999 Hunt submits formal proposal with architectural plans for
research station. Plans rejected a year later as too high impact
November 8, 1999 The first ADF encounter on research trails; research suspended
for 2 days; UPDF declares ADF routed, reserve safe
November, 1999 James Fuller completes mapping of Mugiri trail system just as his
six month tenure ends
Dec. 9, 1999 to Jan. 1, 2000 Research suspended due to ADF incursions
January, 2000 Description of research initiative published (K.D. Hunt. 2000.
Initiation of a new chimpanzee study site at Semliki-Toro Wildlife
Reserve, Uganda. PanAfrica News. 7 (2): 14-16.)
February 4, 2000 Three army personnel killed by ADF near lodge
Feb. 4–Dec. 18, 2000 Research largely suspended due to ADF incursions. Local
employee Okech Obur continues sporadic observation; climate
data collection continues uninterrupted
May 10, 2000 ADF, UPDF battle in research trail at M2.1
May 11, 2000 ADF leader captured on research trails at “Obur’s Entrance”
August, 2000 Hunt visits; six hours of observation entire month
May 12–15, 2001 ADF-UPDF battles continue on research trails; ADF routed to
May 17, 2001 Ex-pat Assistant Teague O’Mara enters Semliki to continue
May 27, 2001 Assistants Teague O’Mara and Okech Obur observe a group for
nearly 9 hours (528 minutes)
Jun 23-July 27, 2001 Hunt on eighth visit to reserve
August 20, 2001 UPDF explodes ordnance in chimpanzee research habitat, later
reporting they were disposing old explosives; no ADF or other
hostile forces involved; chimpanzee sightings drop off
November 20, 2001 10-15 rocket propelled grenades launched from the escarpment
into reserve to “scare away rebels.”
November, 2001 Assistant Teague O’Mara completes belt transects sampling
species composition in the Mugiri habitat
April, 2002 First publication of significant data from Semliki research (K.D.
Hunt and W. C. McGrew. 2002. Chimpanzees in dry habitats at
Mount Assirik, Senegal and at the Semliki-Toro Wildlife Reserve,
Uganda. In: Behavioural Diversity in Chimpanzees and Bonobos,
C. Boesch, G. Hohmann and L.F. Marchant (eds.) Cambridge
University Press, pp. 35-51.)
May 28-Jun 18, 2002 P.I. Hunt visits Semliki, dismisses assistants Brady and
Brattstrom; their tenure marked the worst observations in the
history of research at Semliki, not excepting the first month the
project was initiated.
August, 2002 New proposal for research station submitted, consisting of low-
impact bandas, with waste water and other impacts considered;
proposal is rejected as too high-impact.
July-December 2002 Christopher Wade serves as on-site researcher. Minutes of
observation rebound somewhat to near 200, which is average for
minutes of observation over the last few years.
Dec. 2002-June 2003 Assistant David Inglis takes over as APD; after a poor January,
in February Inglis notches well over 300 min. of observation.
May, 2003 New tented camp reasearch station proposed.
July 2003 Hunt visits; several 2, 3 and 4 hour observations
July 16, 2003 Moses Mapesa approves research station.
July 23, 2003 Warden Bernard Akunda approves Research Camp location at
Mugiri 2.1; clearance comes July 29 after both meet.
July 25. 2003 Former Safari Lodge Manager Clint Schipper contracted to
supervise construction of Research Camp
Aug 2003-July 2004 No research, as dwindling funds are dedicated to camp
Oct. 2003-March 2004 Schipper erects 2 tent platforms, blocks out other sites. One
tent in place.
July 2004 P.I. Hunt visits. Buys second tent. Camp minimally functional.
Funding application made to Heritage Oil Company.
August 2004 Heritage Oil Company provides a year of support
Nov. 2004-May 2005 Assistant Jim Reside term; finishes second platform, builds
kitchen/dining room, erects third tent, establishes water supply,
installs solar, builds toilets and shower, continues habituation
June 2005 P.I. Hunt visits, installs fourth tent, buys beds, mosquito nets,
tables and other furnishings
June 2005 Assistant Carmen Vidal begins tenure as on-site researcher
July-Dec. 2005 Observation time hits new high 25 hours/month, 40 hours in July
July 31, 2005 Carmen Vidal logs an 11 hour follow
November 2005 Funding source, Heritage Oil Corporation, pulls out
February 11, 2006 Assistant Jess Tombs on site until July, averaging 17.2 hours of
observation, including a June total of 42 hours, a new record.
April, 2006 Tombs oversees installation of thatch on tent platforms
June 2006 Hunt visit unremarkable except for one 8 hour follow
July, 2006 Assistant Alissa Jordan on site until December; averages 21 hours
of observation, including a December total of 47 hours, a new
June, 2006 Hunt visits with first outside ape research specialists to visit
site for extended period, Linda Marchant, Bill McGrew and Jim
December, 2006 Jordan finishes term; funds are exhausted. Skeleton crew
remains to maintain trails and support UWA rangers
May, 2008 Hunt obtains funding from IU, project restarted
June, 2008 David Samson manages camp as Assistant Project Director of SCP
June, 2008 First substantial influx of volunteers and researchers, with six
visiting camp over a two month period.
May, 2008 Hunt visits with student David Samson
July, 2008 Tim Webster takes over as APD; McGrew and Webster observe
for the first time honey eating and insectivory
Dec. 2008-June 30, 2009 Rene Johnson APD
May, 2009 Cari Lewis arrives to attempt to assess social rank of males
June 2009 Maggie Hirschauer takes over as Assistant Project Director
June, July, 2009 KDH identifies four new males, bringing total to 21; Hunt,
Hirschauer log 10 hour follow, working in shifts
June-December 2009 Hirschauer averages 16 hours of observation per month, twice
previous six months
January 20-30, 2010 KDH brief visit; camp Manager Edson Katswamba wrecks vehicle
January 30, 2010 KDH updates IDs: now 23 males
Jan.-June 2010 Caro Deimel APD. Number of males possibly as high as 29
June-Dec. 2010 David Samson APD, and Holly Green at site until Jan. 2011
October 31, 2010 Porter Moses Comeboy severely injured by charging buffalo;
Feb.-Apr. 2011 Temporary APD Barbora Kubenova
Jan. 19, 2011 Kubenova totals vehicle returning from shopping in Fort Portal
April-Oct 2011 Will Symes takes over as new APD
July, 2011 Six researchers in camp, including Joel Bray, Abby Kearny, Hector
Manthorpe, Alicia Rich, Austin Senteney and APD Will Symes
Oct. 2011-Apr. 2012 The price of ivory skyrockets, increasing poaching pressure on
elephants in the reserve, endangering primates as well.
May-July, 2012 APD Jeremy Borninger takes over in a pinch and holds things
together until Hunt arrives.
June, July, 2012 KDH surveys evidence of increased poaching; welcomes new APD.
July-Oct 2012 New APD Kevin Rolnick finds increased evidence of elephant poaching.
Chimpanzee observations still low. Rolnick contracts malaria and suffers
other health problems, necessitating his departure in October.
Oct-Dec 2012 Camp Manager Moses Comboy serves as interim APD.
Jan 2013 Corey Mitchell begins term as APD