Africa is the destination of choice for many tourists to see the big five animals. Whereas for some travelers, a safari in Africa is all about the chimpanzees!
I have outlined in this post, some facts about the chimpanzees with the best places for chimpanzee trekking on the Dark Continent.
Over the last 50 years, much research has been done on the chimpanzees. Among the most striking findings is that humans and chimps share more than 98% of their DNA!
Another surprising finding is that over 80% of the primates are living outside the protected areas, namely the National Parks and Reserves.
Did you know that even the chimpanzees are an endangered species? They are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Over the last century, the number of chimpanzees dropped significantly. At the turn of the 20th century, there were about 1 to 2 million of chimps. Nowadays, the number of chimpanzees remaining in the wild is about 170,000 to 300,000.
Why the Chimpanzees Are an Endangered Species?
The chimpanzees are at risk of extinction because of the four following reasons:
- The loss of habitat. As the human population increases, it reduces the chimpanzees’ habitat by destroying forests. The land is used for agricultural purposes, for building infrastructures or for commercial purposes.
- Poaching. Yes, unfortunately, the chimpanzees are in the sights of poachers! Because of the deforestation, the poachers have easier access to the chimpanzees. The commercial bushmeat trade has become the biggest threat to the chimpanzees’ survival.
- Illegal exotic pet trade. Each year, tens of thousands of chimpanzees are captured and sold on the black market as an exotic pet. The poachers target the infants since they are so cute and kill the nursing mother to get them. Many of the chimps captured will perish before they reach their destination. In fact for every chimpanzee traded on the black market of exotic pet, ten chimpanzees are killed in the process!
- Infectious diseases. Since the chimpanzees share 98% of its DNA with humans, that makes them susceptible to human illnesses! The chimpanzees are not immune against human diseases. This exposure to new diseases come from the exotic pet trade and the invasion of their habitat.
Now let me introduce you to a pioneer in the field of primate research: Jane Goodall.
Jane Goodall: the Primatologist
Jane Goodall is a well-renowned expert on chimpanzees. She studied the chimpanzees in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania. Her research on the chimp social behavior spanned over a period of 55 years!
Here are some of Jane Goodall’s findings, about the behavior of chimpanzees:
- Making and using tools: For the longest time, many believed that only humans could make and use tools. Dr. Goodall showed that chimps use their environment to make tools. The chimpanzees can remove the leaves from a twig, and use it to retrieve insects from termite mounds.
- Chimpanzees are omnivores. Before the 1960’s, many believed that the chimps were vegetarians. Dr. Goodall disproved this theory. The chimpanzees are in fact omnivores (meat eaters). Surprisingly, their preferred hunting target is another primate, the red colobus monkey!
- Aggressive and violent behavior. Most people see the chimpanzees as cute and gentle creatures. Dr. Goodall’s research have shown that chimpanzees can display an aggressive and violent behavior. As a matter of fact, the dominant females can exhibit violent behavior by killing the youngsters of other females in their group to assert further her dominant position.
To help protect the chimpanzees from extinction, Dr. Goodall founded in 1977, the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI).
Dr. Goodall’s studies are just a teaser, keep on reading if you want to become an expert on chimpanzees!
More Interesting Facts about the Chimpanzees
Did you know that:
- The chimpanzees live in rainforests and savannah woodlands.
- Their lifespan in the wild is about 50 years.
- Chimpanzees live in groups called troops. The size of the troop varies between 30 to 80 chimps.
- The males are larger and weigh between 88-130 lbs (40-60 kgs). The females weigh between 70-100 lbs (33-46 kg).
- Although a chimpanzee is smaller in size than a man, the chimp is five times stronger!
- Chimpanzees are quadrupeds or “knuckle walkers”.
- They spend as much time on the ground than in the trees. Usually, the chimps sleep and feed in trees.
- Chimpanzees sleep in nests that are made from leaves and branches. They always make a new nest each night; they never sleep in the same “bed” twice!
- The infant chimpanzees have a white tail tuft, which will disappear later in life.
- Their diet includes fruits, nuts, seeds, leaves, blossoms, insects, and meat on occasion.
- The chimpanzee predators are the humans and the leopards.
The chimpanzees are among the noisiest animals. Their communication system is complex. It comprises body language (gestures), facial expressions and making noises!
Here are some examples of means of communication:
- Facial expressions: A grin with the mouth closed or slightly opened could mean fear or a submissive behavior.
- Distance calls: These are calls made between groups that are far away from each other.
- Intra-party calls: Refers to calls between chimps within the same group.
- Pant-hoot: Each chimpanzee has its distinct Pant-hoot call. Therefore, the caller can be easily recognized. The Pant-hoot is to the chimpanzees what your caller ID is to your smartphone!
Now, that you are better acquainted with the chimpanzees, you are ready to track them!
What Is the Best Country for Chimpanzee Trekking?
Many African countries have put in place a tourism strategy that is “nature-friendly”. The primary goals of the program are to protect the chimpanzees and their habitats.
The chimpanzees are found in 21 African countries. Among those countries, you have Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya.
Uganda is by far the best country for chimpanzee trekking. There are about 5,000 chimpanzees spread out across the forests and National Parks.
The Kibale National Park is quite popular among tourists for chimps trekking. Still, your trekking experience should not be limited to only one Park!
Here are other destinations to consider for chimpanzee tracking:
- The Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
- The Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary.
- The Budongo forest in the Murchison National Park.
Finally, your African Adventure wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a chimpanzee sanctuary.
The Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is on the Ngamba Island in the Lake Victoria. The shelter was founded in 1998 and has 33 orphaned chimpanzees. The primates living on the Island come from scientific research facilities and the exotic pet trade.
The chimpanzees are an endangered species. The loss of their habitat and poaching are the main culprits.
The pioneering work of Dr. Jane Goodall on chimpanzees have helped to put in place numerous programs across the African continent to help protect this endangered species.
Uganda is the destination of choice for chimpanzee trekking. One of the top destination is without a doubt, the Kibale National Park. However, don’t limit yourself to only one option! Many Parks and Reserves throughout Uganda offer an excellent chimpanzee trekking experience.
Since our closest relatives have revealed all its secrets, you are now ready for your safari vacation in Uganda. Click here to read my full review about trekking the primates in Uganda!
If you have any questions about the chimpanzees, or would like to share some anecdotes, please leave a comment below. I am eager to hear what you have to say!