Skip to main content
Indiana University Bloomington
  • People
  •  
  •  

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
                                                habituation initiative. 
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
                                                cloud cover)
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
                                                escarpment
June 9, 1998                            ADF burn dormitory in Kichwamba contiguous to reserve; 40
                                                students die
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
                                                north
May 17, 2001                           Ex-pat Assistant Teague O’Mara enters Semliki to continue
                                                research
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
                                                dramatically
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
                                                construction
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
                                                one-month record.
June, 2006                              Hunt visits with first outside ape research specialists to visit
                                                site for extended period, Linda Marchant, Bill McGrew and Jim
                                                Moore
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