In Celebration of World Chimpanzee Day
It’s July 14th, which makes today the first annual World Chimpanzee Day and the anniversary of the day Dr. Jane Goodall first stepped foot into Gombe Stream National Park. On this day in 1960, she became the first person ever to study wild chimpanzees. Today, we celebrate that legacy and the ever-present necessity to protect the chimpanzee. For those of you with an expansive curiosity for primates, you will find a variety of information in this post for you to dive deeper and celebrate World Chimpanzee Day.
Goodall’s breakthrough observations of chimpanzees transformed our understanding of the animal kingdom and served as the foundation for modern primate science. She observed behaviors that had previously only been observed in humans–tool use, war, altruism, and culture. Her findings thus supported her mentor, Dr. Louis Leakey’s theory that similar behaviors in related species are evidence of a similar ancestor. Her research began the same year that Leakey discovered Chellean Man in the Oldupai Gorge, which was later identified as Homo erectus dating to 1.4 million years and the first hominid with a brain size greater than 1,000 cubic centimeters. Chellean Man was named in reference to the Olduwan tools found in the same area, which are the earliest evidence of widespread tool use from 2.6 to 1.7 million years ago. We now know that chimps and humans shared an ancestor around six million years ago.
Jane Goodall Interviewed by Neil Degrasse Tyson
This Startalk Radio interview is complete with Jane’s first-hand chronicle of her time in Gombe. It also includes commentary from an anthropologist, primatologist, and as always with the podcast a bit of comedic interjection too. They discuss her introduction to observing animal behavior as a child, her strategy to observing chimpanzees in the wild, how they proved the skeptics wrong, how the years of research have blurred the defining lines between humans and other species, and humanity’s obligation to serve as stewards of the environment.
Jane Goodall: A History
This National Geographic video offers a history of Goodall’s research with footage from the National Geographic film crew who she returned to Gombe with after she presented her discovery of chimpanzee tool use.
Chimp Trekking for World Chimpanzee Day
What better way to celebrate World Chimpanzee Day than to walk among them in their natural habitat, observing social behavior and listening to the sounds of their calls echoing through the forest? July is the start of the peak season for the best areas to view habituated chimpanzees in the wild. Chimpanzees live in several regions of Africa, but there are a few areas that stand out as most reliable opportunities. Habituated means that they are accustomed to seeing humans, won’t run away, and continue about their normal behavior in the presence of humans. Here is our short list:
Home of the second longest running research site for chimpanzee behavior, Mahale National Park is one of the most remote, Robinson Crusoe-esque places to venture out in search of chimpanzees. Greystoke Mahale is a one-of-a-kind lodge and our top recommendation for a remote, but comfortable, chimpanzee experience. The season is best from late July through October when fruits are more abundant closer to camp and the chimps are more likely to be seen in larger groups as the abundance of food allows for more comfortable sharing of space.
You can view Bill’s pictures from his trip to Mahale as well as some wonderful shots from client, Ken Bouley here:
Currently, Rubondo Island off the coast of Lake Victoria is starting to reap the rewards of their decade-long chimpanzee habituation program. Having released chimpanzees to the island in 1966 by the Frankfurt Zoological Society, there was little tourism until recently. The chances of encountering chimpanzees are increasing, but the forest is more dense and the trekking tends to be more strenuous than in Gombe. Special flights discount starting at only $100 per person currently help to combine a three-night stay at Rubondo Island easily with a Tanzania Safari for less time commitment and expense than Mahale for those who still want to see the Great Migration River Crossings.
Some of the most approachable and reliable chimpanzee trekking takes place in the massive fig forests of Kibale National Park. Here, chimpanzees can be found year-round as they move from fruit tree to fruit tree. With an estimated 1,450 chimpanzees living in Kibale Forest and a habituated community of approximately 90 individuals in the Kanyantale Group each day offers a different take on the lives of chimps. While it is possible to trek in Queen Elizabeth National Park and hear them from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Kibale is the most convenient and reliable region, and an excellent way to combine chimpanzee trekking with gorilla trekking. Uganda Primates Safari – Sample Itinerary.
You can view a short clip of chimpanzee vocalizations from Darcie’s trip to Uganda below:
Chimpanzees are susceptible to human diseases, they are the victims of the bush meat and live animal trades, and habitat loss is an ever-growing problem as human populations increase in Africa. You can contribute to their conservation by donating to rescue organizations and nonprofits such as the Jane Goodall Institute, spreading awareness, and spending your travels in regions that require tourism funds to survive as intact nature reserves.
If you feel overwhelmed, just pause to watch this…Rescued after his mother was killed for bush meat, this orphaned chimp makes his way to its new home at Lwiro Primates
Did You Know?
- There are five great ape species: chimpanzee, bonobo, orangutans, gorillas, and humans.
- Humans and chimpanzees are closer to each other than either are to gorillas with 98.8% shared DNA between humans and chimpanzees.
- A chimpanzee named Ayumu is the record-holding memory champion, beating out the British memory champion known for his ability to memorize an entire stack of cards. Ayumu can memorize his numbers after seeing them for 210 milliseconds! Here is a video to show off his skills: