Chimpanzee Trekking in Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park is found in the Western region of Uganda. The park stands out for being one of the few expanses left that contain both Montana and lowland forests. Kibale Forest is a habitat to over 1500 individual chimpanzees, 70 other mammal species, and 375 bird species.
The park stands out in Africa as one of those places with the highest diversity and concentration of primates on the continent. Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park is the park’s major highlight.
Besides chimpanzees, Kibale Forest is a habitat to 12 more confirmed primate species. The other primates found in the park include; Red-tailed monkeys, Black and White Colobus monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, Vervet monkeys, Blue monkeys, Olive baboons, Grey Cheeked Mangabeys, Ugandan Red Colobus, Demidoff Galago, the Potto, Patas monkey, and Ugandan Mangabey.
What chimpanzee trekking is?
Chimpanzee trekking is a phrase that has been coined by naturalists and conservationists to refer the to the activity of visitors or tourists trekking through the forests or jungles in search of a chimpanzee community.
The chimpanzees have to be tracked because they practically hide from human presence.
Chimpanzees trekking in Kibale Forest National Park usually lasts hours before trackers are able to encounter a chimpanzee community. Chimpanzees are highly intelligent and sensitive creatures; they normally sense the approaching humans afar off and they keep on moving deeper into the jungles.
Quick facts about chimpanzees
They are endangered
Chimpanzees are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), founded in 1948 is an international organization that works in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
There are only about 170,000 – 300,000 individual chimps surviving in the whole world. Human poachers and predators are the biggest threat to chimp existence and mortality.
Chimpanzees are believed to be man’s closest relative. Evidence from their fossils and DNA confirms this.
The apes are hairy; their bodies are covered in coats of coarse black hair. Strangely, they have hairless faces, fingers, palms, toes, and soles of their feet.
The males weigh between 40-70kg while their female counterparts weigh between 27-50kg. They stand at a height of 100-150cm.
Tourists who go chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park usually encounter chimp communities of about 15-50 individuals. The communities are dominated by a hierarchy of male leadership. Disputes within are usually settled without violence.
Chimps have been seen using tools, rocks, leaves, and modifying sticks, and then using them for hunting, scooping honey, insects, nuts, and water. Apes also make spears from sharpening sticks which they use to spear smaller animals.
Chimpanzees are omnivorous frugivores. Tourists who have gone chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park have witnessed chimps eating fruits and chewing buds, blossoms, seeds, barks, and resin.
Though it comprises a smaller percentage of their diet, the chimps also feed on flesh. They hunt smaller animals like the red colobus monkey. Once killed, the prey is shared amongst all hunting party members and present bystanders.
Uganda’s chimpanzee population
Uganda has about 5000 individual chimpanzees. This population is shared out among the various wildlife habitats situated in the different regions of the country.
Kibale Forest National Park has about 1500 individuals and the other chimp population can be found at; Budongo Forest Reserve and Kaniyo-Pabidi forests found in Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth’s Kalinzu Forest and Kyambura Gorge, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary found near Kibale Forest National Park, Semuliki Wildlife Reserve in the Western region, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), and Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary found on Lake Victoria, home to a number of orphaned chimpanzees.
Kibale’s resident chimpanzees
Kibale Forest National Park has the highest concentration of chimpanzees in Uganda. Found within its boundaries is a population of 1500 individual chimpanzees. Trekking excursions are organized for visitors to have an encounter with the park’s chimpanzees. Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park draws myriads of tourists all year round.
The trekking experience
Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park starts at Kanyanchu Visitor Center for trekkers to be briefed before embarking on the famous Kanyanchu primate walk.
Chimps at Kanyanchu have been trekked since 1993, chances of locating them are over 90%. Guided walks are organized twice or thrice a day at 8:00 am, 11:00 am and 2:00 pm, with each walk lasting about 3 hours or more.
Kanyanchu’s chimp communities are accustomed to human presence. Some of the groups have been observed for over 25 years now. Once trekkers locate a community, they are allowed an hour of contact time with them.
Each group of trekkers is limited to 6 individuals. While observing a community, visitors are allowed to take photographs and even make video recordings. Chimps can be seen feeding, hunting, copulating, breastfeeding, patrolling, grooming each other, and building their nests once the sun begins to set.
Consider chimpanzee habituation
Though somewhat similar to chimpanzee trekking, the chimp habituation experience is more engaging. The experience involves visitors accompanying habituation and researchers on habituation exercises; engaging chimp groups that are less accustomed to human presence. Habituation is done on a full and half-day basis.
Chimpanzee trekking permits
Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park is only allowed tourists to tourists who have acquired trekking permits.
A permit is a document that allows visitors to encounter chimpanzee communities in the park, whether on a normal trekking trip or on a habituation experience.
Permits for chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Prior booking is required due to the high demand. It is best to use a tour operator; they check for the availability of permits and make bookings appropriately.
Chimp trekking tips
The minimum age for chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park is 16 years.
Advance booking of permits is required.
It’s advisable to keep a reasonable distance from chimpanzees to avoid the spreading of diseases.
Refrain from eating or smoking in the presence of chimpanzees.
Remember to turnoff flash while taking photographs of the chimpanzees.
Have the right attire on; long-sleeved shirt, trousers, and hiking boots. Rain gear should be in handy since unpredicted rains are common occurrences during chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park.