Facts about chimpanzees in Uganda
Chimpanzees are primates that share 98 percent of humans DNA which makes them close relatives to human beings. There are over 5000 chimpanzees that are found in Uganda and they can be viewed in different national parks and wildlife reserves such as Kibale forest national park which harbors the highest number of chimpanzees, Kaniyo Pabidi, Budongo forest in Murchison falls national park, Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth national park, Kalinzu forest, Toro-Semuliki wildlife reserve, Ngamba Island among others. The chimpanzees in protected areas have been habituated which means that they are used to human presence therefore available for trekking on daily basis.
Chimpanzee physical characteristics
Chimpanzees in Uganda have a body covered with long black hair, have long arms and hands which enable them to pick up objects, short legs with no tail. The male chimpanzees weigh around 150 pounds while the females weigh around 110 to 115 pounds. Chimpanzees live in groups of 30 to 80 individuals and the groups are made up of males, females, young ones and they have a life span of 50 years in the wild and up to 60 years in captivity. Chimpanzees become sexually mature at the age of 8 to 12 years of age, female chimpanzees experience an estrus cycle of about 34 to 35 days and during this period they experience body changes for example the skin on the bottom become pink, bare and swollen. They also have a gestation period of about 8 months, give birth every 4 to 5 years and give birth to one baby which will stay with its mother until about 3 years of age. They are quick and fast climbers hence they build their nests high in the trees and these nests are constructed by bending tree branches, lining tree edges with twigs and forming a platform.
Chimpanzees are omnivorous creatures in that they feed on plants, fruits, leaves, buds, blossoms, flowers, seeds, insects, hunting small mammals like monkeys, bushbucks among others. While feeding, chimpanzees eat seeds, berries from the stem with their lips and pick fruits and flowers with their hands. their diet consists of up to 80 different plants and use tools like rocks to crack nuts, sticks to gather termites from anthills, defend themselves from enemies and also make sponges from leaves which they soak up in water while drinking water from tree holes.
How chimpanzees communicate
They are among the noisiest primates and use facial expressions, body language to communicate with each other using sounds like hooting, screaming, grunting, drumming among others.
Threats to chimpanzees in Uganda
Chimpanzees in Uganda are also considered endangered due to several facts which lead to their decline including
- Diseases, chimpanzees that live at the edges of the protected areas can be exposed to human diseases which sometimes lead to death if not treated.
- Accidental snaring in wire snares which are set out for antelopes and end up killing or injuring the chimpanzees
- Hunting, chimpanzees are hunted for trade, killed for meat by local communities while others are killed due to crop raiding.
- Habitat loss of the chimpanzees due to deforestation of some forests in Uganda which act as habitat for the endangered chimpanzees and encroachment of land due to population increase.
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
Chimpanzee trekking is an interesting and adventurous activity in Uganda where visitors move into the forests in search of the habituated chimpanzee families and once found spend one hour with them in their natural habitat. Chimpanzee trekking is the second most popular activity carried out in Uganda after gorilla trekking which is done in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park. Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda can be carried out in several destinations such as
Kibale forest national park
Kibale forest national park is located in southwestern Uganda and it’s one of the major chimpanzee trekking destinations in Uganda in that it harbors the highest number of chimpanzees which is equivalent to over 1500 chimpanzees. Kibale national park offers two schedule sessions of chimpanzee trekking where the first session is carried out in the morning and the second one on the afternoon. Each gorilla trekking session starts with a briefing about the expectations, rules and regulations at Kanyachu Information Centre. After the briefing you will be grouped into 6 people to trek each habituated chimpanzee family depending on physical fitness and also given park guide who will be sharing information about chimpanzees. Trekking takes about 2 to 5 hours or even more in the jungle depending on the location of the chimpanzees because they like to move deep into the forest in search of food. Once the chimpanzees have been found, you will spend one hour with them in their presence learning about their habits, behaviors, taking plenty of photos and recording videos.
Kibale forest national park also offers chimpanzee habituation experience a process where chimpanzees are trained by a team of researchers to get used to the human presence. However chimpanzee habituation process allows a maximum number of 4 individuals to go with the researcher and engage in the habituation process which involves naming of the chimpanzees, watching them feed among others. During this process visitors will be allowed to spend four hours with the chimpanzees in their natural habitat unlike chimpanzee trekking where they spend only one hour with the chimpanzees.
Kaniyo Pabidi,Budongo Forest
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda can also be done in Kaniyo Pabidi which is situated in Budongo forest southern part of Murchison falls national park which is the largest and most visited national park in Uganda. Chimpanzee trekking in Kaniyo Pabidi can also be done either in the morning or in the afternoon and starts with a briefing about the rules and regulations. trekking takes about 2 to 4 hours or even more an once the chimpanzees have been found, you will spend one hour with them in their natural environment taking photos, recording videos and learning about their habits, behaviors among others.
Kyambura Gorge is located in the eastern park of Queen Elizabeth national park which is the second largest national park located in southwestern Uganda. Kyambura Gorge is also known as the Valley of Apes and during chimpanzee trekking you will spend one hour with the chimpanzees in their natural habitat and also view other primates like red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys among others.
Chimpanzee trekking in Kalinzu Forest
Kalinzu forest is located in southwestern Uganda in Bushenyi forest close to Maramagambo forest and Queen Elizabeth national park. The forest harbors about 6 primate species and it’s the second best chimpanzee trekking destinations in Uganda after Kibale forest national park. Chimpanzee trekking in Kalinzu forest starts early in the morning or in the afternoon with a briefing and takes about 3 to 4 hours in the steep and muddy slopes or even longer because the chimpanzees are mobile in that they move from one destination to another in search of food. When the chimpanzee family is found you will spend one hour in the presence of the chimpanzees in their natural habitat learning about their lifestyle, taking photos and recording the moments to show people back home after your safari.
Cost of chimpanzee trekking permit in Uganda
A chimpanzee trekking permit varies depending on the destination where you are going to trek the chimpanzees for example in Kibale forest national park a chimpanzee trekking permit costs $150 for foreign non-residents, $100 for foreign residents, UGX 100,000 for East African citizens and a chimpanzee habituation permit costs $200 for foreign non-residents, foreign residents and UGX 150,000 for East African citizens. In Budongo forest a chimpanzee trekking permit costs $85 for foreign non-residents, in Kyambura Gorge it costs $50 for foreign non-residents, foreign residents, UGX 30,000 for East African citizens and in Kalinzu forest it costs $50 for foreign no- residents.
A chimpanzee trekking permit in all destinations is valid for one day and allows you to spend one hour in the presence of the chimpanzees. However the chimpanzee trekking permit should be booked in advance so as to avoid disappointments especially during the peak season when the permits are competitive and usually get sold out.
When to go for chimpanzees trekking in Uganda
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda can be done anytime throughout the year though the best period is during the dry season in the months of June to September and December to February. During the dry season there is less rainfall and due to the fact that chimpanzee trekking is done in the jungle the trekking trails will be dry and passable compared to the wet season when the trails will be muddy and slippery. chimpanzee trekking can as well be done in the wet season during the months of March to April and October to November in that the lodges will be cheaper hence favoring budget travellers and chimpanzees will be easily spotted in that there will be plenty of food therefore they will not move deep into the forests in search of food.