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Babaasa, Dennis

babaasa.JPG

Project:

Habitat suitability assessment for the mountain gorilla Gorilla beringei beringei in Uganda

Contact:

dbabaasa ‘at’ eco.umass.edu

Position:

Wildlife Conservation Society Beinecke African Scholar

Web links:

www.itfc.org

Support:

Wildlife Conservation Society Beinecke African Scholarship

Faculty Advisors:

Charlie Schweik and Todd Fuller

Project abstract:

Tropical moist forests support a high diversity of species many of which are endemic and/or are critically endangered. One such species is the mountain gorilla ( Gorilla beringei beringei ), restricted to Bwindi Impenetrable and the Virunga Volcanoes Afromontane island forests. These great apes are a high value visitor attraction, contributing much to the tourism revenues of the three countries ( Uganda , Rwanda and DR Congo) where the Bwindi-Virunga afromontane forests straddle. It is therefore a high priority species for conservation. However, many basic questions about the dynamic relationship between the gorillas and their environment are still unknown. There is need to understand the changing patterns of gorilla behaviour, their relationship to their environment, and to quantify and understand the impacts of human disturbance/activities. GIS allows us to combine all the data available: historic maps, aerial photographs, field results, GPS locations, satellite images and more. This enables us to test hypotheses and track patterns in ways not possible using traditional field notes, methods and analyses. For example, in Bwindi, three censuses (1992, 1997, and 2002) have found gorillas only within the centre of the south sector of the park. It appears that there are some areas of unused habitat and, therefore room for the population to grow. Though no clear relationship between gorilla distribution and human presence was found, some forms of disturbance were clearly more frequent and close to the edge of the park and may contribute to the gorillas’ avoidance of these areas. The no relationship result may be an artefact of the type of analyses used. I will use the statistical modeling approach to predict gorilla distribution based on the assumption that the current distribution is reflective of a species’ response to a set of environmental factors. The statistical model is to be developed by means of three census data sets that allow the linking of gorillas and environmental data; when linked to GIS the realization of the statistical model will be a map of gorilla distribution. The statistical model will interpolate the gorilla distribution from a sample data set, predict the gorilla distribution for sites and further our understanding of factors that control gorilla distribution. The model will allow systematic and quantitative assessment of impacts on gorillas under different policy and management scenarios in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park , Uganda .

Publications:

McNeilage A, Robbins MM, Gray M, Olupot W, Babaasa D , Bitariho R, Kasangaki A, Rainer H, Asuma S, Mugiri G & Baker J 2006. Census of the mountain gorilla Gorilla beringei beringei population in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park , Uganda . Oryx 40, 419-427

Kasangaki A, Babaasa D , Efitre J, McNeilage A & Bitariho R 2006. Links between anthropogenic perturbations and benthic macro-invertebrate assemblages in Afromontane forest streams in Uganda . Hydrobiologia 563, 231-245

Bitariho R, McNeilage A, Babaasa D & Barigyira R 2006. Plant harvest impacts and sustainability in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park , SW Uganda . African Journal of Ecology 44, 14-21

Babaasa D , Eilu G, Kasangaki A, Bitariho R & McNeilage A 2004. Gap characteristics and regeneration in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park , Uganda . African Journal of Ecology 42: 217-224

Babaasa D 2000. Habitat selection by elephants in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park , south-western Uganda . African Journal Ecology 38, 116-122

Miller P, Babaasa D , Gerald-Steklis N, Robbins MM, Ryder OA & Steklis D 1998. Population biology and simulation modelling working group report. In Can the Mountain Gorilla Survive? Population and Habitat Viability Assessment for Gorilla gorilla beringei (eds S Werikhe, L Macfie, N Rosen & P Miller pp 71-105, IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, Apple Valley, Minnesota, USA

Updated: September 2, 2011