Just like human beings, chimpanzees belong to the order of primates which further lies under the class of mammals in the animal kingdom. A mammal is an animal that is characterized by: the presence of mammary glands which produce milk; fur or hair on its body; and three middle ear bones. On the other hand, a primate is characterized by a relatively large and complex brain and is thus thought to be the highest order of animals. Other characteristics may include specialized behavior; unspecialized structure; a short muzzle; a weak sense of smell; five-digit hands and feet; as well as acute vision.
Incredible facts about chimpanzees
The chimpanzee is a great ape that can only be found in Tropical Africa, most especially in the rain forests due to its need for water and fruits supply. The other great apes include bonobos, gorillas, and human beings. Furthermore, the scientific name of a chimpanzee is Pan troglodyte and it has a gestation period of 243 days. With regard to life expectancy, chimpanzees can live up to 33 years in the wilderness and about 50 to 60 years if they are under human care.
More to that, chimpanzees share 95 to 98 percent of their DNA with human beings, making them our close relatives. Chimps, as they are sometimes called: have long arms; short legs; black fur all over their bodies; flat faces; big eyes; a small nose; a wide mouth; and no tail. Male chimpanzees weigh around 150 pounds and females can weigh up to 115 pounds.
An endangered species
Due to the fact that chimpanzees are an endangered species, several efforts are being made to conserve them including World chimpanzees’ day which is marked on the 14th of July every year, and the chimpanzee trekking and habituation experiences which raise funds and awareness that are necessary for the cause. Some of the threats to these creatures include, among others, diseases, poaching, and the destruction of their habitats through deforestation.
Chimpanzees have the ability to learn and communicate using some human languages such as sign language; a significant indicator of their intelligence. In addition, they are known to be the noisiest primates and they use body language, facial expressions, and sounds like hooting and screaming to communicate with one another.
Did you know that these amazing primates can also make tools that they use for purposes such as feeding and protection? Such tools may include branches for digging out termites from the ground and to protect themselves from enemies, rocks to crack nuts, and several others. Chimpanzees also have the ability to create sponges from leaves which they use to soak up water while drinking from tree holes. Having said that, chimpanzees can eat a variety of foods such as insects, honey, roots, seeds, and leaves but they usually prefer fruits and can feed both individually and in groups.
Chimps also have a complex family and social structure, characterized by changes in composition and size from time to time. Each family group usually consists of 30 to 80 members with one dominant alpha male as the leader. Female chimpanzees can only give birth to their young ones once every five years. You may be wondering how this is possible! Well, the infants contribute to this trend in the way that they climb and ride on their mothers’ backs until they are 3 to 5 years old. This leaves no room for frequent births.
In line with all the foregoing, chimpanzees are known to walk on all four of their limbs (knuckle-walking) and usually climb and swing from tree to tree although they sometimes walk on their two feet. One fascinating fact about chimps is that they are quick and fast climbers and they build their nests high in the trees by bending tree branches and lining tree edges with twigs to form a platform. They sleep in their nests at night and then move to another location in the morning.
Where can chimpanzees be found in Uganda?
Chimpanzees in Uganda can be found in different national parks and wildlife reserves such as Kibale forest national park, Murchison falls national park (Budongo forest), Queen Elizabeth national park (Kyambura Gorge), Kalinzu forest, Toro-Semuliki wildlife reserve, and others.
Chimpanzee habituation in Uganda: The process and the location
First of all, chimpanzee habituation is defined as the gradual process of training chimpanzees to get used to human presence and interaction. Its aim is usually to prepare them for tracking and other purposes such as research and conservation.
The duration of this process is about 3 years and afterwards these primates are available for tracking. Uganda has a total of 4950 chimpanzees, with about 1500 of them living in Kibale national park.
This is the only location in the country where chimpanzee habituation takes place and is thus the most suitable tourist destination for that purpose.
Time spent with the chimpanzees
Whereas chimpanzee tracking involves spending a short time with the chimpanzees, specifically 1 hour, travelers who go for the chimpanzee habituation experience can spend as many as 6 hours or even a whole day with the chimpanzees. Trust me when I tell you that habituation is something you cannot afford to miss out on, it is literally to die for. The experience is also much more adventurous since it requires moving deeper into the forest where the wild gorilla groups usually stay.
During the habituation process, a maximum of four people at a time to go into the forest with the researcher and engage in activities such as watching the chimpanzees feed, naming them, and so on. There is always a wildlife ranger to guide you throughout the day.
Essential requirements for a comfortable habituation experience
When you are preparing for the chimpanzee habituation experience, it is important to first get yourself a permit. The sole purpose of this permit is to give you, the tourist, access to engage in this activity. It is also advisable to book this permit at least 3 months to the date of travel to avoid any delays or inconveniences. Before I talk about the respective prices of the permits, I would like to recommend Pamoja tours and travel as your trusted tour operator, to handle your transport, meals, accommodation as well as the permit. With regard to the cost of the permits, non-foreign residents are pay US$220, foreign residents pay US$150 and East African residents pay only US$70.
Other requirements include the following: drinking water; dried energy-giving food; long-sleeved shirt; a pair of long trousers; insect repellant; a camera; waterproof boots; rain jacket; a lunch box; a trekking pole and binoculars.
Age restrictions and the best time for chimpanzee habituation
In Uganda, only people who are of 15 years and above can take part in the chimpanzee habituation experience. However, there is an exception in Kalinzu forest Chimpanzee whereby those aged 12 years and above can take part in the activity.
Interestingly, the habituation experience takes place throughout the year; both during the wet and dry seasons. The full-day experience usually starts at around 6 am when the chimpanzees wake up and end at around 7 am when they build their new nests to settle for the night.
Benefits of the chimpanzee habituation experience
Due to the adequate time that one gets for the activity, he/she is able to take as many photographs as possible. This is for purposes of keeping and sharing those wonderful memories.
Travelers also get the opportunity of having close interaction with the chimps. In addition, they can eventually attain skills of identifying them based on their personalities and distinct markings.
On top of having a spectacular experience with the chimpanzees, travelers get a chance to see a wide variety of animals. These include among others: elephants; buffaloes; bush pigs; and different bird species.
I could write a whole book about chimpanzee habituation and still fail to fully express the awesomeness of the entire experience. That is why I implore you to put this at the top of your bucket list, you will not regret any second of it.
If you have any inquiries or if you would like to make a booking, feel free to contact Pamoja tours and travel. We will address all your needs and concerns.