A day with chimps at Kibale national park

Sunday September 8 2019

Chimpanzees get playful in Kibale National Park

Chimpanzees get playful in Kibale National Park recently. PHOTO BY ALEX ASHABA. 

By ALEX ASHABA

In my secondary school tere were tales of how chimpanzee look like human beings and that people pay for chimpanzee habituation, (spending a day with them). I wondered how tracking the apes that live in a forest was possible. However, the day I set foot in Kibale National Park.

However, recently Kibale Conservation Area offered us chance of visiting the area to track chimpanzees in Kibale National Park in Kamwenge District. The national park is approximately 35 kilometers southeast of Fort Portal on Kamwenge Road.

Experience
When we arrived at Kanyanchu, the reception area which is deep in the forest for chimpanzee tracking, all we did was to admire God’s creation. The rules and caution was clear, that children below 12 years are not supposed to participate in chimp tracking because cimpanzees could mistake them for their babies and run away with them.

The chimpanzees are referred to as individuals in their communities and Kibale National Park has 15 communities and the forest accommodates more than 1,450 chimpanzees.
Out of 15 communities, three communities are used to human behaviour while the other two are used for research and one for tourism.

Into the forest
Walking the footpath in the forest, one could hear a pindrop in the thick vegetation. The activity begins at 6.30am and chances are 90 per cent of interacting with the apes.

When you reach the Kanyamutale community where chimpanzees fond of human beings they seem to welcome you in unison before they disperse in search of food. Chimpanzees live in their nests in the trees.
One has to be guided because chimpanzee behaviour changes and one could be beaten.

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About chimpanzees

Chimpanzees eat food using hands like human beings and when they want mate they swell at the rear.
All females belong to all male in the community. When time comes for mating the females start screaming as a way to woo the males.

Richard Alicwamu, a tour guide at Kibale National Park, said chimpanzees in their communities elect a president. However, the process on who becomes the president is determined through a fight and the winner becomes the president.

At Kanyamutale community the current president is Enfuzi who fought with Tottie Magezi who was the former president and won the race.
“You can become closer to the chimpanzee at an eight-metre distance and you take picture with them but you are not allowed to use ccamera flash because it distracts their eyes,” Alicwamu said, adding that chimpanzees can live up to more than 50 years.

Attracting foreigners
The forest has more than 450 tree species some of which have existed for 100 or more years.
Alicwamu said chimpanzee tracking has been the most enjoyed and impressive activity for tourists in the last five years.

This explains why many people come from different countries such as the UK, Germany, Italy and Japan to track chimpanzees and the number increases annually.
“We have three communities of the chimpanzees and one of Kanyamutale is trained on how to interact with people. as result, we receive many tourists both locally and internationally who want to go chimp tracking and this game is putting Kibale national Park on the world map,” he explained.

Everyone at this point wanted to get closer and take photos with chimpanzees, especially their president and the family.
After chimp tracking we went for a nature walk learning about different tree species including the male tree which is shaped like a man’s private parts.

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