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Published: September 24th 2010
I recently trekked the chimps in Kibale Forest National Park. It was my 6th trek and by far my best chimp encounter.
We arrived the night before and were notified by the camp staff, that we'd just missed the chimps as they moved through the back of the camp. We were staying at Primate Lodge, (not very good this time and I dont recommend it till the standards improve) which is located a mere 3 minutes away from the Kanyatele Park Headquarters. Its very convenient staying at this lodge, but not worth what they charge.
None the less, next day we were woken to the chimps pant-hooting from not far off. This was a good sign as it meant that the community of chimps was in the area and our walk might not be too long.
Kibale Forest National Park is home to aproximately 1,420 chimps which are broken down into roughly 11 communities. Of the 11 communities, 2 are for research and one, the largest one is for tourism. Each day, visitors set off with an Uganda Wildlife Authority guide in search of the habituated group. There are a maximum of 6 people per group and your walk can
Up in the trees
Chimps spend much of their time up in the canopy tree tops. Every night, they will make their nests in the trees
last anywhere from one to four hours. Paths in the forest are well made and good compared to those used to trek gorillas. This does not mean you wont be heading off the path in persuit of the chimps.
We set off with your guide Geoffrey. Thankfully, there were just three of us, so the group was small and we set off to find the chimps. Geoffrey is a great guide and imparted usefull knowledge about the forest as we went along. Every few minutes he's stop for tell tale signs of where the chimps could be. We were right on the button, as we could here them schrieking up in the distance.
Luckily, we had headed in the right direction, the other groups had taken another direction and were not on the right route.
We crossed over a stream, headed through the bushes and soon we found Mobutu, the Alpha male lying right there in front of us. He gave us a quick look as if to acknowledge us and then turned his focus on where the rest of his family were foraging.
He was so close, the old boy greying on the sides of his face, his
30% of their diet is leaves
Chimps do eat meat, their diet comprising of 60% fruit, 30% leaves and 10% meat
hands scarred from years of buttress druming and mainting strict control of his family. Its over 120 strong and the largest habituated community of chimps in Africa. Of the 120, there must have been at least 18 - 20 around us. Some were up in the canopy tree tops looking for fruit, mothers were grooming their adorable infansts. Every member was busy doing something even if it was just lazing in a tree.
Soon the chimps were on the move, screetching they set off at a pace. We scurried on after them, thankfully my gaitors and hinking boots surviving the quiet challenging bushes. Over the main road they headed and into the next section of forest.
"They are patrolling and looking for available food sources," say Geoffrey. "and they will keep going till they find what they are looking for."
Soon we have spent our hour with the Kanyatele chimp community and its time to head back to the park headquarters. I've had a great encounter and got to be within meters of the Alpha male Mobutu, his top females and subordinates. We head back to camp to enjoy a real forest sun downer and evening in the
Crossing the road
The chimps crossed back and forth looking for fruiting trees
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