The habituation of chimpanzees can take up to two years, in which time the chimpanzees have to be followed and observed by humans every single day.
Chimpanzee Trekking & Habituation
Chimpanzee Trekking is one of the top experiences to do whilst on safari in Uganda. This is because there is a concerted drive towards the conservation of approximately 5,000 chimpanzees that inhabit the country. Kibale Forest has the highest population with about 1,500 followed by Budongo Forest with about 650. In Queen Elizabeth National Park, about 250 chimpanzees live in the Kyambura Gorge and on Ngamba Island Sanctuary, 49 orphaned and rescued chimpanzees undergoing rehabilitation. The Kalinzu Reserve in the Maramagambo Forest, one of Uganda’s biggest forests was recently gazetted and it too has chimpanzees.
Chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, sharing an amazing 98.7% of our DNA. It has often been posited that the single major difference between humans and chimpanzees is that unlike us, they do not speak. Otherwise, much like humans, they live in complex societies, can solve complicated problems, make and use tools, engage in elaborate interactions and communicate through a consistent range of sounds and gestures.
A primate is a member of the group of mammals, which includes humans, monkeys, and apes. There are more than 300 species of primates on Earth of which apes and monkeys are usually confused for one another. There are a number of differences between apes and monkeys, for example, apes have a longer lifespan, larger body size, larger brain-to-body size ratio, and higher intelligence, however, the main difference is that monkeys have tails and apes do not have tails. There are two types of apes, great apes and lesser apes, with the primary difference being their general size. There are two types of lesser apes, gibbons and siamangs which are both found in South East Asia and there are four types of great apes: Gorillas, Chimpanzees and Bonobos found in Africa as well as Orangutans found in South East Asia. Apes are humanity’s closest living relatives with both the great apes sharing around 98 per cent of their DNA with humans.
Chimpanzees live in the tropical rainforests of Africa from Sudan and Tanzania in the East to Senegal and Angola in the West. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has the largest population, although chimpanzees have become extinct in some areas. They grow to reach heights of three to five feet and weigh up to 120 to 200 pounds. They are predominantly black, sometimes with grey on their back after 20 years of age. Like us, chimps are highly social animals, care for their offspring for years and can live to be over 50. In fact, chimpanzees are our closest cousins; we share about 98 per cent of our genes. Chimpanzees spend most of their days in the treetops. When they do come down to earth, chimps usually travel on all fours, though they can walk on their legs like humans for as far as a mile. They use sticks to fish termites out of mounds and bunches of leaves to sop up drinking water.
Chimpanzee Trekking & Habituation - Useful Information
Good to Know
- Habituation Experience permits must be booked well in advance
- To protect the chimpanzees, trekkers that are ill are not permitted on these experiences
- Permit fees for chimpanzee trekking vary at the different National Parks and Reserves
- Permits are not issued to anyone below 16yrs
When to do it
Trekking through dense rainforests tracking down chimpanzees is much easier on trekkers in the dry season from mid December – February and June – September.
However, the rainy seasons from March – May and October – mid December are less crowded and present a little extra adventure for travellers.
Of course the beautiful Ugandan weather dictates how it goes in the end, so it is not uncommon at all for heavy rain to fall on occasion in the dry season.