Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation ~ April 2024 Newsletter

Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation ~ April 2024 Newsletter

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Small wild cat news from the African Golden Cat Conservation Alliance, Uganda.

Copyright © 2024 Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation (SWCCF), All rights reserved.

Republished with kind permission from Jim Sanderson, SWCCF.

Smile for Conservation
Delivering Free Dental Services to Rural Villages


by
Badru Mugerwa, Uganda, Embaka &
African Golden Cat Conservation Alliance

 

Exactly 12 years ago, Embaka Community-Based Organization started on a long journey towards establishing a community-led conservation initiative to end bushmeat hunting as a key threat to the long-term survival of the African golden cat at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Bwindi). None of us knew that a day would come when Embaka was invited by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) not only to share our 12-year conservation journey but also to forge a formal working partnership between the two organizations. That day came on April 12, 2024, at the Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area (BMCA) headquarters in Buhoma. Gathered in the office of Nelso, the BMCA Chief Warden, who also serves as the Site Manager for Bwindi, the Embaka and UWA teams delved into a two and half hour long conversation that reminisced about the evolution of Embaka and Embaka's ever-growing status as a beacon of conservation at Bwindi.

These were two hours and a half talking about nothing else but the African golden cat- a small-sized wild cat species only found in the dense forests of equatorial Africa, and many have described it as Africa's most cryptic and least understood. The meeting was an inspiration of collaboration and a convergence of passion and purpose. Tales of Embaka's dedicated conservation efforts, which have not only improved the way of life for local families but have directly mitigated the human threats to the African golden cat, were shared. The Embaka Founder and Director reiterated the importance of intertwining conservation efforts with community livelihoods and shared Embaka's ambitious vision to increase the Embaka local family membership from 2,000 families today to 5,000 by 2026.

The BMCA Chief Warden and his team listened intently, recognizing the merit and achievements of Embaka's 12-year community-led conservation program. The BMCA Chief Warden thanked and congratulated Embaka for a well-done job. The UWA was particularly impressed with Embaka's scientific evidence-based conservation approach stemming from Badru's ecological and socio-economic research. The UWA pledged their support, promising to adopt and champion several of the Embaka's conservation initiatives into their own community conservation program. Embaka's iconic and novel mobile dental clinics, aptly named Smile for Conservation (or S4C for short), attracted particular interest and appreciation because of its immediate livelihood benefits and conservation awareness creation. In fact, the UWA requested that the frequency of mobile dental clinics be increased from once (currently) to thrice a year, a wish Embaka can only fulfill with your support.

The icing on the cake of this meeting was the pledge by the UWA to include the African golden cat on the priority list of species for BMCA, standing side by side with the mountain gorilla —BMCA's current flagship species. This is such a powerful symbol of UWA's commitment to conserving the African golden cat. As the meeting drew to a close, a sense of hope and excitement filled the room. The UWA pledged full support to Embaka's community-led conservation initiatives because they work. A formal partnership between the UWA and Embaka through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is already underway as the natural next step. With UWA's commitment and Embaka's dedication, the future for the African golden cat and the local communities who reside adjacent to its habitat can only get brighter.

Embaka - Saving the African Golden Cat

African Golden Cat Conservation Alliance / Embaka

Saving the African Golden Cat

by Vera Nshemiere

African Golden Cat Conservation Alliance

Uganda

African Golden Cat trail camera image by Laila Bahaa-el-din

I am the newest member of Embaka, a community-led initiative with nearly 2000 local families who pledged support for the conservation of the African golden cat in Uganda. My interest in the African Golden Cat started during a trip to Budongo Forest Reserve where I discovered that the cat was actively hunted by the locals.

The African golden cat in Uganda, like elsewhere across its geographical range, is threatened by (mostly unauthorized) hunting. In Uganda, the African golden cat is protected by law, and its hunting is punishable by law. Despite the punishment (fines and jail time), hunting of the cats persists and is clearly unsustainable. The African golden cats at Budongo Forest Reserve (hereafter "Budongo") are probably the most hunted compared to other populations in Uganda. Yet, Budongo, by virtue of its location in the Albertine Rift Biodiversity Hotspot and its size of 82,530 hectares, is a potential stronghold habitat for the African golden cat.

Hunting using snares at Budongo is unprecedented. Unlike other areas in Uganda where African golden cats are unintentionally killed in snares as collateral damage due to indiscriminate snaring, the cats in Budongo are directly hunted as a delicacy for local families. Their meat and skin are often valuable prestigious gifts to the local chief to show respect and gain favour. The toll of this direct hunting of the African golden cat at Budongo is clear. Both scientists and local hunters report that the African golden cat is increasingly becoming rarer on trail camera and in snares.

Through my interaction with the local communities, I learned that livelihood-improving initiatives address the drivers of bushmeat hunting. This is precisely what my proposal to the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund aims to accomplish. To establish a community-led anti-hunting program to discourage bushmeat hunting of the African goldies at Budongo. Embaka has solved this problem many times before.

I will achieve this goal by: (1) supporting a livestock seed initiative as an alternative to bushmeat and increase household incomes, (2) mitigate poverty (which is the root cause of poaching) by supporting village saving banks which provide soft loans to households, and (3) monitor the impact of our livelihood-improving activities on discouraging poaching by conducting focus group discussions and interviews. Through raising awareness about the African Golden cat, we believe that our project will serve as inspiration that humans and wildlife can coexist harmoniously thereby protecting the cat for generations to come.

African Golden Cat Conservation Alliance

African Golden Cat Conservation Alliance / Embaka

Wildlife Conservation Network

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