Common Chimpanzee (Pan Troglodytes)
- IUCN Conservation Status: Endangered
- Population Trend: Decreasing
- Lifespan: 50 years
- Dimensions: 130-160cm in height
- Weight: 40-65kg
- Active: Diurnal
Chimpanzee Trekking Holidays
There is nothing like the feeling you get when walking through the forest you hear the first piercing screeches of a family of chimpanzees. The noise is deafening and you wonder how your presence will be perceived. The closer you get the louder the unabating noise. Concern turns to elation as you glimpse your first chimpanzee. The next hour of your life is undoubtedly going to be one of drama and awe.
Our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, is not as frequently observed as other big mammals by the average safari-goer due to its forest habitat and absence from the plains and bushveld. We feel this is a shame as they truly offer one of the most memorable wildlife viewing experiences on the continent. Often overshadowed by its larger and more iconic cousin, the mountain gorilla, a journey into chimpanzee country is every bit as exciting.
The chimpanzee belongs to the genus, pan troglodytes. They are genetically the closest living species to human beings, sharing approximately 98% of our genes. They have a lifespan of 50 years, reaching puberty at around 7-8 years of age. Females are usually ready to reproduce at the age of 13-14 years. Like human beings they give birth to a single infant but may occasionally have twins. Astonishingly, the average female will mother 9 infants throughout her reproductive cycle, with sadly only a third surviving. They live in communities averaging 35 animals but their numbers may range from 15 to 150 individuals. You will notice them breaking off into smaller troops to forage. They are the most carnivorous of the great apes and you may be lucky enough to witness a carefully planned ambush on a troop of black and white colobus monkeys.
Chimpanzees occur nowhere else on earth except sub-Saharan Africa. They are predominantly found in the forest belt of equatorial, central, east and southern Africa. Their home range varies from a mere 6 km² in Uganda’s Budongo Forest to 72 km² in Semliki National Park, also in Uganda. They spend the night in trees but thankfully spend many daylight hours on the ground, seemingly for the benefit of tourists such as yourself. Leopards are their main adversary and many chimpanzees fall prey to these big cats. In turn chimpanzees will seek out and kill leopard cubs given the opportunity.
Although chimpanzees are widespread across the continent they are only really accessible to tourists in small pockets of East Africa. This is due to the preference of tracking habituated chimpanzees. Non-habituated chimpanzees can be difficult to track due to their remote habitat and extensive range and may be aggressive towards humans.
Chimpanzee trekking is an outstanding activity that can be done as a standard experience or a much longer and more intimate habituation process. Mahale Mountains National Park, in remote western Tanzania, is recognised as the ultimate destination for chimpanzee trekking, closely followed by Kibale National Park in Uganda. Other places in Uganda include the Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park, and the aforementioned Semliki National Park and Budongo Forest.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have listed the common chimpanzee as an endangered species with population trends decreasing. Due to their wide range and forest-dwelling existence population recording is difficult. However, latest figures estimate there are approximately 172,700 to 299,700 chimpanzees remaining in the wild. Although this is a sizeable population, concern is born from the fact their numbers have decreased from approximately 1 million in the 1900's. They are registered as extinct from 4 countries in their historic range and are under tremendous pressure everywhere else. The primary threat to their survival is poaching for bushmeat, followed by habit loss and disease epidemics.
By electing to visit our closest cousins with Ultimate Wildlife Adventures you are contributing to their protection and chances of future survival as well as signing up for an experience of a lifetime.