Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda is done in gazetted areas by the Uganda wildlife Authority in Budongo forest Murchison falls National Park, Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Kibale forest National Park. Chimpanzees sometimes called Chimps are members of the Hominidae family which includes Gorillas, Humans, and Orangutans. it is said by scientists that Chimpanzees are the closest living relatives to Humans with 99% identical DNA between human beings and chimpanzees. The brain of a chimpanzee is less than one third the size of the human brain.
A fully grown male Chimpanzees is said to measure up to 1.7meters high (5.6ft) when standing and can weigh up to 70kgs.while the females is slightly smaller. chimps will use their arms for climbing up in the trees and will use all the four legs while walking on the ground. Chimps will communicate in the same manner similar to those of human non-verbal communications, by using vocalizations, hand gestures, and facial expressions. Chimpanzees will normally reach puberty at an age of between 8 and 10 years, and rarely live past age 40 in the wild, but have been known to live more than 60 years in captivity.
Chimpanzees will always live in communities with large male and female communities and will always use tools when eating ants from anthills and will most cases turn aggressive during feed times to maintain the food territory. Some chimpanzees are very aggressive while others are very shy just like Humans the larger males like to put on displays to command respect.
When dawn falls chimpanzees will make their beds in trees by bending branches into a nest. They will always shift to other areas for making new nests daily and will sleep for over 9hrs. However there are other places where Chimpanzees can be tracked and viewed and these include the Kalinzu forest reserve in Bushenyi district and the the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Entebbe on Lake Victoria.
Located in Murchison Falls National Park Budongo Forest Reserve is 793 square kilometers of which only 53% is forest and the rest grassland. Budongo Forest boasts of a high biodiversity of 24 species of small animals 9 of which are primates, 465 species of trees and shrubs, 359 species of birds, 289 species of butterflies and 130 species of moths. The forest is renowned for its high number of mahogany trees and chimpanzees. The forest is believed to contain some 600 - 700 chimpanzees.
As a result of this great biodiversity two eco-tourism sites have been set and optimized for tour activities - Kaniyo Pabidi and Busingiro eco tourism sites. These two sites have chimpanzees that have been habituated for chimpanzee tracking. Trail networks have been established for nature walks. You get an up-close view of the mahogany trees, iron wood trees and other vegetation. In addition to the chimpanzees and other primate species such as monkeys, one can also view several bird species such as Chocolate-backed kingfisher, the White-thighed Hornbill and Puvel's illadiposis found nowhere else in East Africa. The area is relatively flat and thus easy to trek.
Kibale Forest National Park is renowned for its diverse primate species and the moist evergreen and semi-deciduous forest eco system. The most prominent primate species in the park are man's closest relatives, the chimpanzees. Other primate species include several species of the African monkey that include Uganda Mangabey, Uganda Red Colobus, and the L'Hoest Monkey
Several communities of chimpanzees in Kibale National Park have been habituated for chimpanzee tracking and human interaction. Chimpanzee habituation is a delicate process that is used to make these largely wild apes approachable by human beings without causing any mayhem
Kibale National Park is favored for chimp tracking and nature walks not only due to its endowment with wildlife but also its relatively flat terrain that is easy to trek. The park is also well optimized for trekking with well laid out trail networks.
Kyambura Gorge also known as Kyambura Game Reserve is part of the popular and exciting Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is located on the northeast side of the park, 30km from the park headquarters. Kyambura Gorge is renowned for its primate population and the only place with habituated chimpanzees in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Other notable primates one can also view in Kyambura Gorge are the red-tailed monkey, black-and-white Colobus, baboons and vervet monkeys.
In addition to the significant amount of primate species the place is also known to have a lot of avian species including various falcons, the blue-headed bee-eater, and the African Finfoot.
Kalinzu forest reserve is a natural-ecosystem forest found in the western part of Uganda in Bushenyi district. The forest reserve is home to Chimpanzees, leopards and two butterfly species which are found no where else in the world, redtailed monkeys, black and white colobous monkeys, Black billed turacos, vervets, bush babies, baboons, L'hoest monkeys, blue monkeys, and also home to a diversity of many plants.
The sanctuary is a project that was established in 1998 by a number of local and international organizations to provide a safe haven for orphaned and rescued chimpanzees. These chimpanzees were/are rescued by the Uganda wildlife Authority (UWA) from poachers and because they are unlikely to survive if reintroduced back into their natural habitats Ngamba Island is used to provide safety and care to them.
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary not only provides a safe haven for these vulnerable chimpanzees but has also created an opportunity for a memorable chimp experience. The Island is now open to visitors all year around and has now become one of the must-visit adventure destinations in Uganda for those seeking a quick but satisfactory chimp experience. It’s a perfect alternative to the strenuous but more adventurous Chimpanzee tracking in the big game parks and reserves.
The best time to visit Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is at 11:00 am and 3:00 pm during their pre-arranged supplementary feeding. It is exciting to watch the chimps grapple for food and the way they interact with each other. As a visitor you could luckily get a ounce in a lifetime opportunity of being one or two chimpanzee’s care taker if they (chimps) choose you. You will get the opportunity to appreciate why they called man’s closest cousins. They literally mimic all human actions. They will ask you to feed them, walk them around, play with them, talk to you, and do many possible things you would do with/for humans - its totally mind blowing, probably the most unique and closest wildlife encounter you could ever have.
Though being wild animals these chimps have been carefully habituated for human interaction and each day they interact with humans they get even closer to them more of brothers/sisters than cousins.
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