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Chimp Tracking Information

 

Uganda may well be described as one of the world’s best places to do chimp tracking. All in all there are 5 locations where groups of chimpanzees have been habituated and where tracking them is actually possible – Budongo Forest, Kibale Forest, Kyambura Gorge and Kalinzu Forest. Habituating means making them used to the presence of humans. Generally chimpanzees avoid contact with humans and tend to flee at first sight. So the trick is to slowly, over a period of years, have a constant human presence around a particular group of chimps, so that they get used to humans. Initially, these are always the same people, as chimps can very well differentiate between one human and another. At some point, they will no longer notice the presence of a different species close by, as they have become so accustomed to it, that it does not affect their natural behaviour and are thus not stressed at all. This is the point when other visitors are permitted inside the park to visit this group of chimpanzees, as they have now been successfully habituated.

Having groups of habituated chimps that can be visited by tourist is a very important factor for their conservation. The money people spend on buying chimp permits from Uganda Wildlife Authority goes straight into the conservation effort.

 

Although habituated chimpanzees are used to the presence of humans, ever effort is still made to have minimal impact on their stress levels. This means that, just like tracking gorillas, certain rules have to be followed:

  1. 8 visitors per group per day. This ensures, that the amount of stress the group is exposed to due to the intrusion into their environment is kept at a minimum and that the risk of contagion due to human-borne diseases is lowered.
  2.  Do not approach closer than the minimum distance of 7 meters / 21 feet from the chimpanzees. This is to control disease transmission and to not aggravate the animals.
  3.  Do not touch! Should it happen that you come to within touching range of a chimpanzee, do not follow temptation to do so. Always remember that these are wild animals and many times stronger than you.
  4.  Do not feed! This applies to any animal living in the wild.
  5.  Do not smoke, eat or drink while with the chimps. Eating or drinking can lead to disease transmission through the dropping of morsels of food or droplets.
  6.  No flash photography. The flash of a camera irritates the animals and causes stress.
  7.  Do not litter. This should be common sense, but please take extra care in the park.
  8.  Keep your voice low. While within hearing range from the gorillas, please do not shout, laugh or raise your voice in any way in order to not stress the animals.
  9.  Wash your hands before heading out to track the chimps.
  10.  Do not attempt to track the chimps if you are feeling ill or know that you have a contagious disease. Chimps are very susceptible to human diseases, so please respect this rule.

Unlike gorilla tracking, chimp tracking generally takes between 1 ½ - 2 hours. However, sighting is still not guaranteed. After all, they are wild animals which roam free and can move through dense rainforest a lot faster than any human can.

 

Do not underestimate the terrain when you go chimp tracking. It is generally not just a stroll through the woods, but a proper hike through rainforest, so proper footwear and gear are advisable:

  1.  Wear proper, closed shoes suitable for climbing muddy steep slopes.
  2. Be sure to carry rain gear. You are in a rainforest.
  3. Sunscreen and a hat are advisable. Being in a rainforest does not mean that it rains all the time and the equatorial sun can be quite harsh on skins not used to it.
  4.  Carry insect repellent. Do not underestimate the nuisance those biting little buggers can cause.
  5.  Make sure you have enough drinking water with you to last a couple of hours.
  6.  Bring a camera. It would be a shame to not be able to share your experience with folks back home.
  7.  Binoculars are always good to have on you. The jungle is teeming with a variety of birdlife and if you find the chimps sitting high above in the canopy, you will be glad to have them.

 

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