Kibale Rainforest is promoted as the best place for tracking chimpanzees in Africa. For us, it was definitely the easiest! After a short but brisk walk along a well trodden path, a large Chimpanzee family was thrashing through the trees and bushes, ripping off leaves, jumping, climbing, grooming each other or simply looking at us. An alpha male was sitting in a tree fork, waiting for a female (which was very obvious!), and studied us in a rather oblivious manner. The lady never came and eventually he trotted off to the clicking of our cameras.
Taking photos and perpetuating these images for ever and ever is what you want to do. Every gesture, every move, the mimicking, it is all mesmerizing. The way they rip off the leaves, pick the fruits, put them in their mouth, chew them, spit them out, even peeing down we found fascinating. And then the grooming – gently holding back the hair with one hand and removing pieces of soil or vegetation from the other.
Maybe it is their closeness that triggers such strong feelings. Not less than 97.6% of our DNA is similar. Genetically, chimpanzees are more like humans than they are like Gorillas.
Chimpanzees are not always that easy to find. They move fast and only a few groups have been habituated in Kibale and are ready to allow the eager, camera yielding tourists to get near them. Some people remembered chimps tracking more exhausting than finding the gorillas!
Chimpanzees prefer the forest, but they do sometimes raid the gardens and this of course gets them into trouble. Not always do young children guard the fields, much too often traps are laid out. Not necessarily meant to get the chimps, but the many other animals going for the crop. Rangers try to remove these traps in painstaking work, but unfortunately often they do their purpose.