They may not look that appetising to some, but these fellas are a real treat.
Caterpillars are an important traditional food source in the Congo rainforest. Most families in our Lubutu partnership find it difficult to get enough protein into their diets, so these caterpillars provide a much-needed protein source.
But the numbers of caterpillars are dwindling. It used to be the custom that the first generation of caterpillars in a season was left to pupate. If caterpillars were found on high branches which made them difficult to collect, it was also traditional to leave them there.
Unfortunately, these safeguards aren’t always followed. More and more families are now returning home after years of civil war, which has put pressure on the forest to provide enough food.
When our partners in Lubutu were monitoring the local area for gorillas and other animals, they saw a lot of damage to the Uapaca trees that caterpillars live on.
Workshops and education to raise awareness, could teach local people that looking after the caterpillars in the present would provide more food in future, and could provide an income too. It is important to leave at least half the caterpillars on the tree to produce a steady supply and sufficient numbers for next season.
The caterpillars can be sold at local markets, providing income for families. And protecting them helps to conserve the vegetation that they depend on along with the whole ecosystem in the region. This contributes to a safer future for everyone living in the forest, people included.
The very tasty caterpillar can save the rainforest.