The chimpanzee is a species of great ape native to the tropical forests of Africa. The chimpanzee is closely related to bonobo and are both classified in the genus Pan. They are close relatives to humans, sharing up to 98% of the human DNA.
It weighs between 30-60kg depending on various factors like; sex, age. The infant is weaned at about three years old, but usually maintains a close relationship with its mother for several years more. It lives in groups which range in size from 15 to 150 members, although individuals travel and forage in much smaller groups during the day.
The arms of a chimp are longer than its legs, and can reach below the knees. The hands have long fingers with short thumbs and flat fingernails. The feet are adapted for grasping, the big toe being opposable. A chimp’s head is rounded with a prominent and prognathous face. It has forward-facing eyes, a small nose, rounded non-lobed ears, a long mobile upper lip and, in adult males, sharp canine teeth. Chimps lack the prominent sagittal crest and associated head and neck musculature of gorillas.
Chimps live in communities ranging from 20 – 150 individuals but spend most of their time travelling in small, temporary groups consisting of a few individuals, which may consist of any combination of age and sex classes. These smaller groups emerge in a variety of types, for a variety of purposes. For example, an all-male troop may be organized to hunt for meat, while a group consisting of lactating females serves to act as a “nursery group” for the young.
Chimpanzee bodies are covered by coarse hair, except for the face, fingers, toes, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. Chimps lose more hair as they age, and develop bald spots. The hair of a chimp is typically black but can be brown or ginger. As they get older, white or grey patches may appear, particularly on the chin and lower region. The skin may range from pale to dark, females develop swelling pink skin when in oestrus.
The chimpanzee diet is majorly made of all other food items but also eats leaves and leaf buds, seeds, blossoms, stems, pith, bark and resin. While the common chimpanzee is mostly herbivorous, it does eat honey, soil, insects, birds and their eggs, and small to medium-sized mammals, including other primates. Insect species consumed include the weaver ant, termites and honey bees. The western red colobus ranks at the top of preferred mammal prey. Other mammalian prey include red-tailed monkeys, yellow baboons, bush babies, blue duikers, bushbucks, and common warthogs.
Where to trek chimps in Uganda
Budongo forest is located in the north west of Kampala on your way to Murchison falls national park. The forest is a home of chimpanzees with some groups open for trekking by tourists. Apart from the chimpanzees, the forest is also a home to more than 360 bird species, some 290 butterflies, 130 moths, 465 trees, and 24 mammals, of which 9 are primates.
The kyambura gorge is found in Queen Elizabeth national park. This scenic gorge has been called the lost Valley by BBC and the Valley of the Apes by others. Kyambura Gorge is part of the Western Rift Valley and it provides such a unique setting and backdrop for chimpanzee tracking. The terrain can be a bit on the rough side, it means crossing creeks and rivers all part of the excitement of being with the chimpanzees of Kyambura Gorge. Chimpanzee tracking in the gorge takes about 3 hours and you will expect to spot some bird species that live in the forest.
Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale forest offers both chimpanzee tacking and habituation experiences. With chimpanzee trekking, you track the chimpanzees up to where they have settled in the forest. The trek itself is fun and in Kibale forest you get to see a few other animals and some other primates as you move through the forest looking for the chimps. Kibale forest is home to about 12 other primates. When you finally find the chimps, you have one hour of viewing before you head back. You will have to keep following the chimps as they move from one tree to another.
The chimpanzee habituation experience on the other hand, is where you get to experience a day with researchers who are involved in the chimpanzee habituation process. Habituation is a two year long process, so you get to spend the day watching the researchers go about habituating some chimpanzees. You watch them from the time they leave their nests in the morning till the evening when they go to sleep. The habituation experience is an available option in Kibale forest all year round, but in Budongo forest it is during the off season months.
Kalinzu Forest Reserve
Kalinzu forest reserve is an interesting destination in a very unique way. Kalinzu forest reserve has a number of amazing wildlife species; it has over 414 tree species with uses that will add on your knowledge about African culture. The forest also has 378 bird species that will elevate your birding experience to a whole new level, 6 different primates, 97 moths, reptiles, the flowers in the field will treat your modes right, 262 butterfly species.
The forest is a home to about 300 chimpanzees with about 40 habituated chimpanzees which are open for trekking by visitors to the forest.
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is home to 49 orphaned chimpanzees rescued from across East Africa. The sanctuary is located on an island surrounded by the peaceful waters of Lake Victoria. You will have a great opportunity at the sanctuary to see these great apes and also participate in feeding them.