Chimpanzees are one of the most precious jewels that Uganda is known for. These Primates share about 98.7% of their DNA with humans, making them our closest relatives than the Mountain gorillas. There are over 1500 Chimpanzees within the boundaries of Uganda and are found within Kibale Forest National Park, Budongo Forest Reserve, Kalinzu Forest Reserve, Semliki National park and the Kyambura Gorge within Queen Elizabeth National park for tourists who wish to track them in their natural habitats. There are also some Chimpanzees within the Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC in Entebbe) and within Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Besides the popular chimpanzee tracking where tourists spend only one hour with these Primates, another riveting activity exists in Budongo Forest Reserve and Kibale Forest National Park-called the chimpanzee Habituation Experience where tourists spend the whole day with Researchers to study the Chimpanzees as they undergo Habituation (to make them used to the presence of humans). However, there are some rules and regulation that guide Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda. These rules and regulations exist to protect these primates while at the same time protecting tourists who visit them. These rules and regulations include the following;
All Chimpanzee trekkers are called upon to abide by the instruction of the Game rangers during pre-tracking orientation/briefing because it is for your own good and the good of the Chimpanzees. The guides know the Chimpanzees very well and give you instructions to keep you safe whole within the National Parks or the Forests.
A maximum of 8 people are allowed to track a particular chimpanzee troop within any of the habitats where these Primates are found.
Flash cameras are not recommended for taking photographs of these primates, because the flash scares away the Chimpanzees
The minimum age for someone to be allowed to track the Chimpanzees is 15 years which applies to all places/National Parks managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (such as Kibale Forest National Park, the Kyambura Gorge and Semliki National Park) but for places like Kalinzu Forest that is managed by the Ministry of Forestry, the minimum age is 12 years.
Chimpanzee tracking can take from between one hour and 6 hours, but tourists are allowed to spend only one hour with a Chimpanzee group. This reduces on stress on the Chimpanzees.
Trekkers are advised to maintain a distance of 8 meters away from the Chimpanzees to reduce the likelihood of spreading germs and diseases to the Primates or vise versa.
Tourists with measles, diarrhea, cough, flue or cold and other communicable diseases are advised not to participate in Chimpanzee tracking to avoid the risk of spreading these diseases to these primates. As earlier mentioned, the Chimpanzees share up to 98.7% of their DNA with humans which means they (chimpanzees) can also be affected by some of the diseases that affect mankind.
Avoid eating or drinking when near the Chimpanzees and also avoid smoking within the National parks especially when in the presence of the Chimpanzees.
Do not provoke the Chimpanzees but instead give them the freedom they need and deserve. Remember that they are wild animals. Not only that, when provoked, they can run away and you may fail to capture some good moments with them. Even when they want to move around, do not corner or stop them.
Tourists can only access the National parks or the Forest Reserves for Chimpanzee tracking with the help of the game rangers of the ranger guides.
In conclusion, Chimpanzees share over 98.7% of their DNA with humans, which make them vulnerable hence several tracking guidelines exist to guide their tracking and to keep both tourists and the chimpanzees safe. To achieve a memorable experience, tourists are advised to follow the guidelines and follow the instructions of the ranger guides.