Article By: Sarah Namulondo (writer / blogger www.sarahnamulondo.com) | Images By: RJ Walter & Innocent Ampeire
It’s Dangerous being a Chimpanzee!
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is located on Lake Victoria in Uganda. It was established in 1998 and is managed by the Chimpanzee Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservation Trust, a non-government organization that currently oversees the welfare of 49 chimpanzees. The island started with 19 chimpanzees but between 2000 to date the numbers have kept on increasing as a result of human-wildlife conflict (the bush meat & illegal pet trade) and three chimps that were born at the Island due to failure of birth control implants.
Chimpanzees are man’s closest relative, with a DNA which exhibits a 98.7% commonality, but unfortunately the wild population has decreased to less than 150,000, putting them on the CITES list of Endangered Species. Their population is continuing to diminish every year by about 6,000, through relentless poaching, logging, habitat destruction and human encroachment. They are hunted for meat or captured for sale to zoos, animal-testing labs, circuses, and to individuals as pets. They are at genuine risk of extinction if nothing is done in the next 5-10 years.
The chimps that are taken from the wild endure incredible pain and terror before reaching Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary. It’s estimated that for every young chimpanzee taken from the forest alive, at least 8-10 adult chimpanzees have been killed during its capture. Because of their size, infants are not eaten and are therefore sold to buyers, predominantly as pets. Many chimpanzees that leave the wild will die in transit before reaching their destination because of suffocation, malnutrition, dehydration and poor care.
“I saw my mother die. There was a war in the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; that’s where we lived. Gunshots would go off at night and sometimes during the day. My mother would always successfully carry me on her back to take me away from the crossfire.
But one day we got caught in the middle of the firefight; my mother tried to move us away as fast as possible, but unfortunately a stray bullet hit her.
I remember hearing her pant hoots, louder and louder, then followed by quieter whimpering sounds and, slowly by slowly, her whimpers turned into silence.
I looked at her belly but it wasn’t moving. I then tried to touch her eyes and lips but she didn’t move them. I didn’t know where to go so I decided to cling onto her body as she bled to death.
A few hours later a UPDF soldier found us and tried to take me away from her, I couldn’t leave her behind. He tried pulling me away from her but I tightened my grip. I didn’t know better, neither did I know where to go without her. He tried his best until he resolved to set her ablaze. That’s when I ran away for fear of burning to death.
This soldier later took me to Arua district in Uganda, where he tried to gain legitimacy to raise me as a house pet, but fortunately the clearing officer, who stated that I was an endangered species, took me away from him.
I was taken away from him and flown to Entebbe on a chartered plane in May, where I arrived with a bloated stomach, hair loss and the majority of my baby teeth had fallen out. I have grown up since then and had my name changed from Jungle to Ikuru, which means happy one.”
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary provides a semi-natural environment to chimpanzees like Ikuru, where they are able to play and interact with each other. With 95 acres of forest and five care-giving facilities, they are able to rehabilitate and live as natural a life as possible. However, the forest alone is not able to sustain them and it costs USD3,500 to feed one chimpanzee per year. This cost is to supplement their feeding with fruits, vegetables, milk, millet porridge, maize meal and eggs.
Veterinary care is also given to the chimps at the sanctuary, by providing annual health examinations and specialized care when needed. In sensitive cases, where individuals get sick or injured, they sometimes need to be removed from the group and closely monitored for care & recovery. We are currently in the process of building a new and expanded medical ward, which will allow us to maintain our standards of care as the number of chimpanzees at Ngamba Island continues to grow.
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary relies on funding from visitor revenue, as well as the generosity of donors, sponsors, Trustees and other supporters to keep these animals healthy and alive.
Visit Ngamba Island
Enjoy either a day or an overnight trip, where you will participate in chimpanzee viewing, care-giving (behind the scenes), the Ngamba Trail, a sunset cruise, participating in feeding the chimps, birding and other wildlife watching, fishing, kayaking and cultural experiences. By visiting, you are directly contributing to their well-being and overall conservation of the species.
Volunteer at Ngamba Island
Make a difference to the lives of the 49 chimps at Ngamba by contributing to the number one, model chimpanzee sanctuary in Africa, as well as visiting the in-situ conservation field project in Hoima.
Although the Chimpanzee Trust and other organization are working towards reducing the frequency of orphaned chimpanzees living in the wild, the individual contributions to this cause remain important. No matter how small you may think your contribution is it will make a remarkable difference to our daily operations.
Thank you in advance for your support and help to conserve and protect one of the world’s most important species and one of mankind’s closest relatives.
Without you, we couldn’t even begin to provide them with the care they deserve.
With loud pant hoots!