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Mahale Chimpanzee Trekking Safari Experience

Mahale Mountains National Park - Contents Table

Chimpanzees are the part of the ape family and share a special genetic relationship with human beings, over 99%, making them the closest relative of modern man. Just like humans, chimps share common physical and behavioral patterns with men such as have large brain, social characteristics and intelligence. Apes, which include chimpanzees and gorillas, are found across sub-Saharan Africa apart from Tanzania, in countries such Congo, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda.

Chimps of Mahale National Park: Chimpanzees found at Mahale Mountains that were studied by Dr. Toshisada have been categorized in two groups: K-Chimps and M-Chimps. Dr. Toshisada and his research used bananas and sugarcane to entice the chimpanzee with the declining amount of provisions in 1981 to a total elimination of the food support system by 1987. In exchange for food, Dr. Toshisada and his research time were able to study the chimps in much more detail. The chimps of Mahale were larger than those found at Gombe with significant cultural different such as the type of foods they would select. From a trekking viewing experience, the most visual was the fact the Mahale chimps acted more humble. They would not mind being watched in fact acted like guests did not exist. They were comfortable with carrying on their normal activities such as grooming, eating and playing. This creates an exhilarating experience for visitors who can watch from up close these behavioral interactions like no other experience in the world.

Chimpanzees also live in home ranges of around 30 kilometers in communities of 20-100 chimps. These communities also have smaller groups of chimps, which is the case at Mahale found in numbers of 6 to 12 chimps.

Chimpanzee Mating: Female chimpanzees come into heat every 36 days. On any given visit to Mahale, AfricanMecca guests might be able to spot conditions when the female develops a pink swelling on her rear side signaling to males in her communities that she is ready to mate. Mating often takes with multiple male chimps of all ages. As the female chimp gets older, she settles for a selective relationship with a few males. It is also not uncommon to find females chimps crossing home ranges and communities to mate with other males.

Chimpanzee Family and Communities: Chimpanzees like humans care for their young. After an 8-month gestation period, an infant, colored in light pink fur is born and is nurtured to the age of 3 to 4 years. It is quite common to find young chimps being attached to the mother for a third of their life.

AfricanMecca can find on a lucky day a group of 2 to 4 chimpanzees engaging in a grooming practice, which apart from fur cleansing, also is meant to create a courteous relationship between the engaging chimps of either sex. Just like humans, family and community characteristics of a chimp population vary from region to region.

Chimpanzee Interactions: During your Chimpanzee safari with AfricanMecca, guests are likely to encounter varying sounds made by the chimpanzees from various parts of the forest. Guests and the guides assigned to them will use their hearing senses to track the chimps. The sounds made include hooting, pant-hoot, screeching or howling-barks. The sounds are made when chimps encounter excitement, fear or food.

Chimpanzee Food Gathering And Hunting: Chimp intelligence is displayed greatly in the practice of food gathering and hunting. Chimps are omnivorous; they selectively eat plants, fruit, tree barks, insects, seeds, nuts, eggs and as well as other smaller animals such as bushpigs. They spend at least six hours of their day feeding, with most of that time spent on foraging for fruit, and the rest time divided into eating leaves and other nutrients. The intelligence factor in the chimpanzees also helps them map out a food source schedule where depending on the season what particular food would be available in abundance.

This helps the chimp be more successful in their natural selection and therefore adapt more easily to the circumstances. It was interesting to note that competition for food among chimps and between chimps and baboons at Mahale was less than at Gombe. The difference Mahale makes for the chimpanzees is that being such a large park supports plenty of food sources and options available to the chimps, allowing them to move to various part while allowing barren trees to flower more fruits.

Specifics about the eating habits of Chimpanzees at Mahale Mountains National Park include:

Chimps of Mahale ate no palms nuts compared to those at Gombe who relied heavily on them.
Dr. Toshisada report writes the following statement in his research about wellness of chimpanzees: "Chimpanzees use their lips to carefully remove one leaf from the plant at a time and pull it into the mouth with the tongue. This causes these rough, hairy leaves to fold up accordion-style. Each folded leaf is then swallowed whole without being chewed. Leaves are evacuated whole and undigested in their feces. It has recently been demonstrated that leaves swallowed in this manner physically remove adult worms that were previously attached to the wall of the large intestine. As many as 21 worms have been found trapped within the folds and attached to the surface of these leaves."

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