About chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
Chimpanzees have been list as a critically endangered species and can only be found in 21 African countries.
Due to increase in human settlements and increase conflicts around the world the chimpanzee numbers have greatly decreased.
The current chimpanzee population is estimated at about 5000 in Uganda mainly found in the forested areas of Kibale, Budongo, Kalinzu, Kyambura, Maramagambo and Ngamba Island on Lake Victoria.
Chimpanzees share 98% of human DNA making them our closest relatives and that’s why they are keenly followed by many- chimps attract large numbers of tourist and Kibale is the main tourist destination for these primates.
Like the mountain gorillas, chimpanzees take an average of 4 years before they can conceive and look after their young one for close to 10 years before they are mature enough to stand on their own.
Chimps live in communities unlike gorillas which live in families, therefore this means different communities have different life styles and therefore, conflicts between the different communities is a common occurrence among these primates.
Chimpanzees are intelligent enough to use tools to help them achieve different tasks for example the use of stones to crack nuts, use of sticks to pull out ants from termite hills, use of tree branches to build nests and many more.
Chimpanzees are mainly vegetarian and feed on fruits and vegetation within the forests but occasionally they do hunt for the small monkeys which seems cannibalistic because monkeys are closely related to chimps.
Threats to Chimpanzees in Uganda
Chimpanzees are losing their habitats because forest have been cut down at an alarming rate.
Chimpanzees are hunted for their meat in most parts of Africa including Uganda.
Chimpanzees have been hunted and sold as trophies across Africa.
The chimps have also fallen victim to traps laid to trap other wildlife.
The government has stepped up its efforts of conservation of this endangered primate and gazetting national parks and sanctuaries and also protecting the forested areas which is the main habitat for the chimpanzee.
Tracking down the habituated groups of chimpanzees is a very unforgettable experience. Since the chimpanzees have a very close relation to humans among the existing creatures, they are fun to watch as they play, feed and rest in their natural habitat. Unlike monkeys, chimps live in extended families/groups of up to 100 individuals and move in small sub groups around the forest revolving with close relations of brothers, sisters and mothers. The male chimps normally spend their lives within the group they were born whereas the female may move to the adjacent community on reaching adolescence.
Visitors are allowed to spend time with the habituated chimps, allowing them to observe the behavior of the apes especially as they feed. This is quite an intriguing activity that you should never miss out. There are more than 5,000 primates in Uganda and these can be tracked in Kibales Forest Park which has over 1,500chimps which is the largest population of these apes living together in Uganda, in Murchison Falls National Park at the Kaniyo Pabidi, Maramagambo, Budongo, Queen Elizabeth National Park in Kyambura gorge and many other place. On Ngamba Island found 23 km south of Entebbe town within Uganda and on Lake Victoria are more than 40 orphaned chimpanzees.
The chimpanzee tracking is done early in the morning, tourist have to report to the visitor information centers at 7:30 am and be briefed on the dos and don’ts of chimpanzee tracking. They will then be divided into smaller groups before they head off to the forest.
On average chimp tracking takes 3 hours although you are advised to take enough water, wear long pants and carry along a rain jacket. Make sure you tuck in your pants to avoid crawling bugs.
Eight meters distance is recommended between the trackers and the chimps and avoid flash photography and taking prerecorded void recording.
Permits can be easily got at UWA headquarters in Kampala at 450 us dollars.