Itohya forest; A tale of how chimps, students learnt to fight over raw jackfruit

Kenneth Kazibwe

Kenneth Kazibwe

, News

Measuring 374 hectare and located 35 kilometres south of Hoima town in Bunyoro region is Itohya, a privately owned forest.

The forest is managed by St. Josephs Vocational and training College, Munteme and students use it for study purposes.

The forest is home to 60 chimpanzees and a story is told of a fight between students and chimpanzees started fighting for jackfruits.

According to 60 year old Mzee Sseezi Mugisa who has been looking after the forest since 1983, both students and chimpanzees looked up to jackfruits from the tropical rain forest.

“Chimpanzees always checked on the raw jackfruits until it was ready and ate it. On the other side, the students too could look up to the ready delicacy,” says the 60 year old caretaker of the forest.

For the students on many occasions missed out on the ready jackfruit having been eaten by the chimpanzees prompting the former devise means of sorting the problem.

“The students would pick the raw jackfruit and keep it in the bushes until it got ready and ate it. However, the chimpanzees always got surprised at how the raw jackfruit had been picked by humans.”

“The chimpanzees tool learnt to pick the raw jackfruit and keep it in the bush and eat it later,”mzee Sseezi narrates.

According to the Itohya forest caretaker, chimpanzees have since then learnt how to look for raw jackfruit from the neighboring villages, steal it and keep it until it is ready.

Mzee Sseezi describes the chimpanzees as being as cunning as humans considering the manner in which they raid villages, without being detected and steal raw jackfruits before returning to Itohya forest.

“Even if its five or 15 kilometres away, they look for it but they move stealthily just like humans in a territory that is not theirs,” he adds.

The forest

Itohya is a tropical rain forest named after a river that flows through it and is home to chimpanzees which are an endangered species.

During the one hour walk through the thick and dark cold tropical rain forest, one cannot fail to watch a number of bird and tree species.

Nebat Kasozi, a conservation officer with Chimp Trust, while in the forest, one does not need to carry food or water.

“The forest has a number of fruits and cold water one can feast on while touring it,”Kasozi says.

The writer viewing birds in Itohya forest.

According to Lily Ajarova, the Executive Director, Chimpanzee Trust, after realizing that almost all forests in the Bunyoro area which were home to chimpanzees had been cut down, it was agreed to use Itohya as a conservation area for the animals.

“The work of Chimp Trust is with community and private forests to complement Uganda Wildlife Authority and National Forestry Authority to conserve forests. The future of chimp conservation lays with conserving forests which are homes to these endangered species,”Ajarova says.

She adds there is need to reconnect the forests which have been fragmented and isolated by cutting down trees by humans.

When the Nile Post visited the forest, a vast piece of land had been planted with more trees, courtesy of the Chimp Trust which encourages locals to also reciprocate the same.

Vocational school

St. Josephs Vocational and training College manages the forest and according to the school bursar, Andrew Asaba, they encourage students to plant trees as a way of conserving forests.

He adds that though the courses at the school might not be forest related, they teach students things related to protecting forests.

We encourage the students to go for tree planting, bee keeping within the forest so as inculcate the culture among them,”Asaba says.

“We plan to introduce courses related to forest management and eco-tourism.”

He says they also have plans of getting income from the forest to the school through eco- tourism.

The forest however has a challenge of encroachers and wild fires which are shaking its existence and importance to the area.

 

 

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