|Town/Region||Bwindi Impenetrable National Park|
|Categories||Biodiversity, Hunting, Mammals|
|Date||14 Oct 2020|
Unlike many Afrotropical forests, Bwindi is not under pressure from farming encroachment or illegal logging, majorly in part to the attention that the park has received for its half of the world’s mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) population (McNeilage et al. 2001). It is, however, experiencing poaching pressure both from snares and hunting dogs (Mugerwa et al. 2013). Dogs often get lost in the forest, becoming feral and posing an additional threat to the parks’ wildlife (Millan et al. 2013). With the proposed project, we will improve the capacity of wildlife managers to detect poaching with dogs and the distribution of feral dogs, by introducing and providing training in passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) techniques. A novel law enforcement tool, PAM is gaining global recognition for detecting and monitoring poaching in remote protected areas (PAs). While PAM has been successfully tested in Central African PAs for recording poacher gunshots (Astaras et al. 2017), hunting with guns is absent in Bwindi, thanks to the country’s strict gun ownership regulations. Here, we will deploy for the first time an acoustic grid specifically for identifying hotspots of poaching activity by detecting human voices and dog barks.
The project’s long-term goal is to improve the capacity of Bwindi wildlife managers to protect all wildlife threatened by poaching and feral dogs, by providing high spatiotemporal resolution information on the activity patterns of those threats. The proposed project will achieve the following conservation objectives:
1) Demonstrate the potential of passive acoustic monitoring as a law enforcement monitoring tool to local wildlife managers and ultimately to national wildlife authorities, as it will be the first PAM project in the country with that objective, as far as we are aware.
2) Advance PAM’s value as a force multiplier for wildlife law enforcement in African rainforests, by contributing towards the development of dog and human detection algorithms, which can be used in Bwindi and beyond to detect hotspots of human activities other than hunting and logging (i.e. the gunshots and chainsaw detectors are currently available).
3) Provide a valuable baseline record of Bwindi’s soundscape and levels of anthropogenic activities, for future reference.
4) Train local wildlife personnel in modern applied conservation skills - and therefore to directly benefit from the national park (beyond the tourist sector).
5) Strengthen existing collaborations among wildlife managers, tourist companies and local conservation NGOs (e.g. Embaka, www.savingafricangoldencat.com) for more efficient and effective wildlife conservation.
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