Chimpanzee habituation is the activity of familiarising a community of chimpanzees to the presence of Humans for several purposes including research and study of chimpanzee behaviours. Chimpanzees are normally habituated before they are available for tourists to visit during trekking activities. The habituation processes are normally done to chimpanzees in their natural habitats and chimpanzees that have not been interacting with humans frequently or interacting with humans at all.
The habituation process is done over a period of time that ranges from 1 year to 2 years or more depending on the chimpanzee community being habituated.
The processes are done by wildlife experts together with rangers in the various chimpanzee habitats. The wildlife experts have studied the behaviours of chimpanzees and are well equipped with knowledge and skills on how to calmly acquaint the chimpanzees with human presence. Though the rangers know the chimpanzee habitats more than the experts; the wildlife experts normally take the lead on the different chimpanzee habituation processes.
During the habituation process, the chimpanzee community intended for habituation is located with the help of the trackers and rangers, and when the chimpanzees are located the experts start to initiate or rather implement the different tactics that make the chimpanzees calm enough to stay in the presence of humans without running away.
After the chimpanzees are claimed and the experts’ sense they are able to stay in the presence of the humans, the experts and the rangers stay around the chimpanzees for about 4 – 8 hours to help the chimpanzees register in their minds and systems that humans are not harmful at all to them.
The experts and rangers use this opportunity to further observe and study the different behaviours and lifestyle of the chimpanzees to better inform their decisions in habituating them and conserving them.
This routine is repeated over a period 1 to 2 years and after that the chimpanzees are able to be trekked for tourism purposes.
During the 1 to 2 year period when this process is going on, some tourists are allowed to participate in one of the habituation process and this grants the tourist more time to spend with the chimpanzees compared to the one hour they spend with the already habituated chimpanzees.
For one to take part in a habituation process, they have to acquire a chimpanzee habituation permit. At acquisition of the chimpanzee habituation permit, you will be scheduled to go for one of the habituation processes that have been already scheduled by the park or the habitat management.
You should note that chimpanzee habituation is though done all through the year, it’s not a daily activity like chimpanzee trekking, also there are months in the year, chimpanzees are not actively habituated because of habitat navigation challenges and the chimpanzee seasonal behaviours. So when you book your chimpanzee trekking permit, be sure to keep that in mind. Chimpanzee habituation permits vary in prices across the different countries with chimpanzees and have chimpanzee habituation.
Only 8 people are allowed to join the rangers and experts on a habituation expedition and these eight people will still follow the same rules as the ones given for trekking tourists that include but not limited to:-
- Keeping a distance of seven meters between you and the chimpanzees
- Following the rangers’ and wildlife experts’ instructions at all times
- Avoid direct eye contact with the chimpanzees
- Don’t use flashes while taking pictures
- Don’t irritate the chimpanzees by doing anything that may cause them to
- Charge at you
- Don’t cough or sneeze directly in the chimpanzees always cover your mouth or nose when you need to do so
Because this experience takes quite a longer time than Chimpanzee trekking, every person taking part of the habituation process is advised to carry enough water and food to last them through the whole experience.
Also, like for a trekking experience, people taking part in the habituation process should wear appropriately for the trekking through the forest, have shoes like hiking boots, long sleeved clothes, hat, raincoat, gloves and other things travellers see fit for the experience.
Chimpanzees in East Africa are found in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania; with Uganda having the highest number of chimpanzees and chimpanzee habituation done only in Uganda in Kibale National Park.
Kibale National Park is located in western Uganda about 5 hours from Uganda’s capital Kampala and is home to over 5000 chimpanzees that live the great Kibale rain forest.
A chimpanzee habituation permit in Kibale National Park costs 200 USD per person per habituation experience and these permits can be acquired through Uganda Wildlife Authority or a tour operator.
This experience is a must-do for all primate lovers because it gives you a far deeper insight of these endangered primates and helps you appreciate the different conservation campaigns that run through the world to continue the conservation of the chimpanzees especially through preserving their habitats.
Book a habituation safari and live to tell generations about this wonderful experience.