Chimps – Day 56

Posted on April 29, 2012


This morning was my officially my last day in the forest and it couldn’t have been more perfect. I awoke to the sound of the Sonso chimps feeding and hooting in the mango trees outside my house at 5am and two hours later I was following them through the forest, struggling to keep up.

Geresomu Muhumuza one of the field assistants, was monitoring the behaviour of a few individuals, Zephyr, Janet, Zig and the Alpha male, Nick. He agreed to let me tag along. For about three hours we went off grid, east of line 3. Thicket, vines, fallen trees, water, black biting ants you name it we encountered it. The chimps on the other hand had no problems. They glide through the forest effortlessly, both arboreally as well as terrestrially. The speed at which they move is incredible too, you think they are moving at a snail’s pace but blink and they have vanished.

Flash photography is strictly forbidden when you are taking pictures, so I cranked open the aperture as wide as possible and hoped for the best.

I witnessed, grooming, copulation, aggression, submission, play as well feeding. I wasn’t quick enough to capture any nooky on film, but I did get some extraordinary portrait shots.

This is one of my favourites from today and its of Zig – the star of my first film which I made in Budongo two years ago covering the issue of snare laying by hunters. His right hand is damaged from a snare injury and now the poor thing has lost the sight in his right eye from an infection, he has been in the wars. It’s like he is permanently winking. He is unbelievably well habituated and copies Geresomu all the time, almost like a mini-me. He came to sit very close to us, giving me his best “face” before making a nest on the ground and curling up for an afternoon power nap.

Zig, a young male chimpanzee in the Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda

Zig, a young male chimpanzee in the Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda