In The Gambia, Chimpanzees have unfortunately been extinct in the wild since the beginning of the twentieth century. This in most part to deforestation and hunting them for what the locals would term “bushmeat”.
They belong to the four main kinds of great ape. Namely, orangutans, bonobos, gorillas and chimpanzees. Remarkably they share up to 98% of our DNA and are more closely related to us than gorillas. So alike are we that we share traits such as kissing, tickling and laughing.
Fun facts about our close relatives.
Chimps are clever, they make and use tools for example they will use rocks to crack open nuts. In the wild, you will only find them in Africa but in captivity did you know that they have learned use sign language. This means as Dr Doolittle says “we can talk with the animals”. A female chimp named Washoe learned more than 240 signs. Dependant upon whether living in the wild or being in captivity they live up to sixty years old.
Chimpanzees are endangered Species.
Unfortunately, its not just The Gambia that has put our cousins at risk. Chimpanzees are an endangered species across all Africa and its now estimated that there are only approximately 270,000 left in the wild.
Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project.
In 1979, Stella Brewer ( Marsden) initiated the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project. She had already been helping several chimps since 1969 and back then they were being looked after at Abuko Nature Reserve.
The project is situated in The River Gambia National Park, it consists of three large islands where the chimps can live safe from any outside threats. They are fed each day and looked after if they become sick or injured. Stellar’s vision is a wonder to see and I recommend highly a visit to her Chimpanzee islands if you are in The Gambia.
Sadly, you won’t find her there now, after a struggle with cancer, she passed away in January 2008 and was buried on the island with her beloved chimps.
If you would like to arrange a visit to see the chimpanzees, we can help you with that. We organise trips which bring together, The Wassu Stones, hippos and of course the chimps. Sarani, our guide is an excellent companion for your trip and very knowledgable. Usually, it will involve an overnight stay because there is too much to pack into one day only. If you want to stay at the rehabilitation centre, that can be arranged but you need to book way in advance as they don’t have lots of accommodation and it gets full in advance.
Many thanks to Jeremy Spanton who supplied the photographs from a recent trip upriver.