When I was a student at Nkumba University, I met two Care Givers, who worked at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in my course. Apparently they had come back for further studies. As we became acquaintances, they told me about Ngamba Island and the chimpanzees in their care and I admired the way they talked about these animals and deep down I knew I wanted to visit this place some day.
So in 2013, I applied for internship but I wasn’t successful and ended up in Budongo forest where I learned more about tree species, birds and a couple of wild animals that wandered around.
While there we got a glimpse of Chimpanzees in the wild but it wasn’t up close as I had wanted. Some would be up in the trees while only one or two would be on the ground but would also run off in hiding if humans approached.
But in 2014 as luck would have it, I applied again as a volunteer and this time I was accepted. I arrived at the Island in the evening close to the evening feeding and I saw Care Givers putting on their green overalls as they approached the holding facility. Within no time loud pant hoots had taken over the atmosphere and one by one they walked through the race way panting and rasp bellying like it was going out of style.
There they were all 49 of them, with their dark fur and pink lips. It was amazing! In fact the most amazing experience I had ever had. I and my siblings used to hear about these individuals in children’s folk stories but on that day I got to face a chimpanzee in fact chimpanzees and suddenly they were no longer a myth. It was awesome!
I have been working here for…years but surely this place has changed my conservation knowledge and mainly chimpanzee behavior.
I can be in the Resource Centre at the Island and hear pant hoots in the forest and tell which chimpanzee is pant hooting or when chimpanzees get in fights and come back with wounds, I can tell which chimpanzee bit the other or scratched the other according to the shape of the bite or scratch without being in the forest.
I’ve also learned that chimps don’t like sharing, it’s under that premise that I will also choose my favourite chimp, its Chimp Billi, (Chimp Afrika’s foster mother, technically Survivor’s grandmother) I love her because she takes her time when it comes to eating and going to the forest. She doesn’t provoke others into fights and also remains calm even when provoked.