Thirty Years of Research in Kibale National Park, Uganda, Reveals a Complex Picture for Conservation

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Kibale National Park, Uganda, has a rich and abundant primate community and a complicated history of anthropogenic disturbance. Moreover, it has been the focus of over 30 yr of research and has received considerable attention from nongovernmental and governmental conservation organizations. As a result, Kibale serves as a valuable case study with which to evaluate the factors that regulate primate population density and the challenges of deriving generalizations for conservation. We review the impact of logging and forest fragmentation on primate population density and trace the efficacy of various conservation strategies. A 28-yr comparison of primate abundance in logged and unlogged forests and a 10-yr study of forest dynamics showed that primate recovery in logged areas is generally slow or not occurring at all for some species, which is likely driven by the fact that the forest is not recovering as expected. No primate species characteristic predicted their ability to live in forest fragments around Kibale. While a nutritional model was useful to predict the abundance of colobus in forest fragments outside of Kibale, a 5-yr study revealed that human land-use practices are more fundamentally shaping population dynamics. We evaluate data on primate abundance in light of Milton's protein/fiber model to predict colobine biomass. We demonstrate that while the model can predict colobus biomass in pristine habitats, the 2 colobus species respond differently to disturbance. We offer suggestions for future conservation research and consider strategies to conserve forested national parks based on experiences gained over 30 yr.

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