When I was working with Uganda Wildlife Authority, I got a chance to work under a white researcher who was so passionate about a chimp group she had named crumpus.
She told me how different they were, how fascinating there behaviors were and how different they were from each other. At the time I found her sentiments un established because I had never seen any Chimpanzees until one day we headed out in the forest in Kibaale to find Crumpus.
They were high up in the trees but she could identify each one of them and would tell if they were female or male. I was surprised and immediately I knew I wanted that.
That was my first encounter with a group of chimpanzees. My second wasn’t so good because I was introduced to their wild side.
One day while working in the forests of Kibaale with my colleagues, we reached a certain part of the forest and found two chimpanzee groups fighting over territory. The alphas fought each other while the two groups watched.
I was so scared! I had never seen anything like that. These chimps were so strong in that they were throwing themselves miles apart but yet running back at each other so fast. It was rough! One of our senior colleagues asked us to get down and hide under some shrubs.
The chimps hit each other harder every time biting deeper every minute. Then two chimps came from behind and attacked the alpha of the second group and let their leader bite deep into his thigh.
I had never seen blood gush out of anything like that before and with a loud chimp whimper, the alpha from the second group ran faster than before looking everywhere until he found a herb whose leaves he tore off.
He crushed them in his hands and added a bit of saliva to it and let the liquid fall into the wound. Slowly by slowly the blood started clotting and the bleeding stopped.
I was stunned and since then I wanted to learn more about these individuals. I wanted to know how an animal could treat itself. I wanted to know how it knew that, that particular herb could stop bleeding.
As we walked out of that forest my dreams got bigger and as fate would have it, an opportunity presented itself in form of Executive Director, a position I have held for over 10 years.
Lilly Ajarova is the Executive Director