Zakayo, the oldest and most famous chimpanzee in Uganda, was on Friday evening celebrated at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC).
Zakayo passed on on April 26 last year aged 54. In a lively event, the ‘Zakayo legacy day’, was officially launched and will henceforth be November 1.
Speaking to guests, Dr James Musinguzi, the UWEC chief executive officer (CEO), praised the fallen chimp, saying it was indeed iconic, and one of a kind.
“He represented primates, was social and followed hierarchy. He would only eat after the young ones had eaten,” he said.
Mr Musinguzi added that Zakayo’s legacy was necessary, given his contribution to the country’s tourism sector. “Zakayo brought in a lot of money and tourists to Uganda. And it was only prudent of us to celebrate him,” he said.
At the beach side of the centre, an audience comprising environmental conservationists, officials from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Makerere Tourism Association, the new UWEC ambassador, Ms Marion Nakku, and UWEC staff, all spoke highly of the contribution Zakayo extended to Uganda.
Prior to the launch, guests were taken through a mini-tour guide of UWEC where they witnessed feeding sessions of chimps, accommodation of the various animals, as well as Zakayo’s grave yard.
Other officials such as Mr Alex Asiimwe, the former Uganda Tourism board CEO, also echoed Zakayo’s legacy and thanked UWEC for having maintained the wildlife centre green despite receiving thousands of children flocking the centre.
Mr David Musinga, the UWEC manager of education and information, also acknowledged that Zakayo was a unique species, not only locally, but also internationally. He said they had introduced a junior Zakayo to be the successor. US national, Mr James Hutchins, the executive director of Jane Goodall Institute, implored all stakeholders to uphold and restore the wildlife habitat.
Legacy. Zakayo was the oldest known captive Chimpanzee in Uganda. He was the non-human primate, who was the champion or idol of conservation, not only at Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, but in Uganda in general.
He was captured from Semliki National Park, and later found his way to a new owner (expatriate) on June 10, 1964. The expatriate claimed to have confiscated Zakayo from people who had illegally held him.
At 13 years, the expatriate surrendered him to Entebbe Zoo on June 19, 1976, given he had become so aggressive to be kept as a pet.
Records suggest that Zakayo succumbed to chronic ‘Gastroenteritis’ due to his old age and he was highly susceptible to opportunistic infections.
He had also become senile given his past history and lived at UWEC for 42 years, leaving behind two wives, in Amina and Ruth, as well as a toddler.
Zakayo was popular among fellow chimpanzees for having been caring and a lover of peace and harmony.
His body has since been preserved at the zoo for tourism purposes and only his intestines were buried.
Statistics indicate that Chimpanzees have a life span of 60 years in captivity, and 45 in the wild, meaning that Zakayo in fact surpassed their normal lifespan.