99% human. As close as you can get.

99% human. As close as you can get.

When I was doing my trip throughout Uganda I went on a chimpanzee tracking. In other words, we went out for a walk towards the place the chimpanzees should be. After looking around, communicating with other rangers and listening to their screaming, we found them!

Before I tell you about my experience and thoughts during this track, first some more information about the similarity between these chimpanzees and humans. The exact percentages of identical DNA are something scientists are still arguing about. It is ranging from 94,6% to 99,4%. Even the lower number is still really impressive when you think about it, big parts of the DNA are identical. The most significant difference in the DNA is that the chimpanzees have one chromosome more than we humans have. Chromosome number 2 is divided into two different parts of the chimpanzees DNA.

Now it is time to tell about my experience with the chimpanzees!
The first one we saw was high up in the tree, sitting with his back towards us. But we were so happy, just because we saw a chimpanzee. After 10 minutes our ranger/guide convinced us to walk further looking for more chimpanzees. And we couldn’t be happier with the result.

Babyface chimpanzee

The next chimpanzee we found had the nickname ‘baby face’. He got this nickname because he kept his light face colour which baby chimpanzees are born with. Although the baby face was already around 35 years old! Luckily for him, it was clear to see that he was an adult male chimpanzee.

Chimpanzees reach an average age of 40 years, so this baby face is a real grand-father! But as you can see in the picture, he is enjoying is old days, posing for those weird tourist that comes to watch him.

Bedtime!

Chimpanzees build their own nest every evening. They rarely use the same nest twice, so it is quite a bit of work. When we were watching the behaviour of the chimp group, one of the chimps decided that it was bedtime. Just forget that it was only 2:30 pm. For us, it was a great opportunity to be able to watch how they make their nests. She did it right in front of us, only a few meters away and quite low in the tree. Like sitting front row during a theatre show! It was a pleasure to see how she was folding the small branches until she was satisfied. When her nest was done she laid down and was enjoying the show of lots of cameras in front of here.

Counting the nests of the chimpanzees is a good and reliable method to make an estimation of their population because they sleep every day in their own nest, that is only used ones.

A day out of a chimpanzee life

They are usually awake during the day with peak times in the morning and late afternoon. They are resting during the heat of the day. Normally they eat mostly fruit, leaves, little branches etc. Also, they eat small insects of bird eggs. But there is also a bit more horrifying side to their diet. Chimpanzees hunt smaller monkeys. In the park where I have been for a month, Kibale National Park, they mostly eat the black and white colobus and the red colobus monkeys.  For me, it sounds a bit like an adult human eating a toddler.  But they need food of course. One of the colleagues back in Uganda told me they ones found only ahead of a black an white colobus monkey, just the head. Chimpanzees live in a social group that can range from just 2 members and even up to 100! but the average is around 6 to 10 individuals. Every group does have their own territory, and there can be some aggressive fights about the size of the territory and the power of the dominant male. A last small fun fact about chimpanzees is that they are almost always right-handed!

Next time I will tell something about their big brothers. That’s all I will tell for know. See you next time.

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