Today is World Chimpanzee Day, a day we celebrate these amazing creatures. I have been fortunate enough to see these animals out in the wild and to describe what the experience is like, well its nothing short of mind blowing. We are very closely related to Chimpanzees and humans share roughly 98% of the same DNA. I personally find this fact unbelievable!
It's only really when you get out into the field and spend time with them that you truly understand the above fact. I often found myself just sitting and watching them. The way they interact, the way they behave, their facial expressions are all VERY similar to us humans.
What really fascinated me was watching them go about their daily business. We watched as one chimp modified a branch to use it to extract ants from a hole in the tree. Studies have shown that they make their own tools from branches, grass, leaves and rocks to use in search of food and hunting, which if you think of it, is quite extraordinary.
Family groups can consist of anything between 10 and 40 individuals depending on area and area availability. The funny thing with chimps is that even though they are a family, they don't spend all their time together, it's not uncommon for them to split up for short periods of time and then join up again.
The chimpanzee is listed on the IUCN Red List as an endangered species. Between 170,000 and 300,000 individuals are estimated across the world. There are a number of threats to these incredible creates, for chimpanzees in the wild, the biggest issue is poaching, habitat loss and disease. With massive forest areas being torn down, it is eliminating space for the chimpanzees and all the other creatures that inhabit the forest. Disease is another big one, because we share roughly 98% of the same DNA with Chimpanzees so it is crucial to protect ourselves as well as the chimpanzees when we are out in the forest and for this reason, masks are worn at all times to stop the transmission of any disease.
As I have mentioned, humans are a huge issue for Chimpanzees and their safety. One thing I must say is that in most of the areas where Chimps are found naturally, they have brought in the use of local guides, forrest guides and porters, the reason for this is one - it creates good job opportunities for the locals and two - it offers protection to the Chimpanzees in these parks.
Individuals that used to use the park for poaching are now being used for conservation and making enough money to sustain their families, which then eliminates poaching to an extent. Having these individuals out in the field on a daily basis is also a great deterrent for anyone looking to sneak illegally into the Reserves and they are also eyes and ears on the ground. Having said that, the more trips we can host and the more people we can share this amazing experience with, the greater the chance the chimpanzees have.
Tourism is the main income into these areas and without us these reserves may get smaller and smaller and even cease to exist.
With all the tourism coming into these areas each year, entering the tourists parks provides the National Parks with income to sustain the park, but a portion of the money being made is put aside and at the end of the year the Authorities go around to each community and see what the community needs, for example - a new school, a new bridge or anything similar for that matter. In doing this, ourselves as tour operators along with all the other individuals that travel to all these different destinations, we don't just support the National Parks, but we support the community and I personally think this is a great initiative that many other parts of the world can embrace.
Some Interesting Facts:
- Chimpanzees are one of four types of “great ape.” The great apes are: chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans.
- Wild chimpanzees only live in Africa.
- Chimpanzees use more tools for more purposes than any other creatures except humans.
- Chimpanzees can catch or be infected with human diseases.
- Chimpanzees have a wide variety of tastes and are able to live in a wide variety of habitats, unlike gorillas and orangutans who have narrower diets.
- Chimpanzees in the wild rarely live longer than 50 years. Captive chimps can live more than 60 years.
- One of the chimpanzee calls is the "pant-hoot." Each individual has his or her own distinctive pant-hoot, so that the chimp can be identified with precision.
- Chimpanzees communicate much like humans do - by kissing, embracing, patting on the back, touching hands, tickling.
- Like humans, chimps have opposable thumbs and opposable big toes which allow them to grip things with their feet.
- Chimpanzees are not meant to be pets; a full - grown chimpanzee has five or six times the strength of a human being.
- Chimps can be found in about 21 African countries, mostly in central Africa.
- Male chimpanzees show their power in "displays." Their hair stands on end so they look bigger, they scream, stamp their feet, and go on a tear, dragging branches, or hurling rocks. This may scare other chimpanzees and keep them from picking a fight.
Seeing Chimpanzees in the wild in their natural environment is absolutely magical, because it's not just about seeing them in the wild, it's about removing yourself from your comfort zone and exploring the incredible wild forests. If you have not yet, I highly recommend that you add this to your travel list, from personal experience, it will change your life.
Thinking about doing a trek? Here are some helpful items you will need.
- Long Sleeve shirt
- Long Pants
- Hiking boots
- Long socks(to tuck your pants into) OR Gators. This stops any creepy crawlies from getting in your pants.
- Bug spray
- Camel Pack(I did this for the first time this year, it carries 3 liters of water and is more than enough for a trek)
- Gloves (sometimes in the forest you need to use your hands to move branches)
- Camera gear
- Rain gear (being in a tropical rain forest, the weather is unpredictable and changes from minute to minute)
- Walking stick (the hills and trails can be a bit tricky at times, the sticks are also provided for you)
Until next time,
Best Of Uganda Trip Report
Read all about what the Best of Uganda has to offer in this trip report. It is simply impossible to describe this experience, it truly is a special country to visit. This Trip takes place in Kibale, where we will track Chimpanzees, Queen Elizabeth National Park, where we will look for tree climbing lions and then Bwindi, where we will go in search of the Mountain Gorilla
Best of Uganda
Time spent in the company of Uganda's great apes will simply never be forgotten. It's life changing in every way. When you look into those big eyes, you connect with more than just an animal, you discover a new part of your very self.
Leopard Vs Ugandan Kob
What happens when two Ugandan Kob fight for dominance, their horns get locked together and a leopard shows up?