Chimpanzees and Kasenenes' Party, Sun June 29

We trekked in the Kibale Forest to see chimpanzees early Sunday morning. Our tracker, Charles, has been guiding in the forest for fourteen years. We were driven to a drop-off point south of the park headquarters. Then we walked through the dense jungle for about an hour, hearing chimp hoots and calls coming closer and closer. The walking was sometimes quite tough, through vines and thorns, up and down hills, through swampy lowlands where safari (fire) ants got into our clothes.

But the effort was totally worth it. We watched a group of about 10 chimps hunt a colobus monkey high in the top rainforest canopy. Some chimps would take turns cutting off escape routes on the ground under the trees, while other chimps would climb up to drive the monkey into a corner. The air was filled with bloodthirst and noise. The monkey escaped, however, which was probably a relief for most in our party.

Kato, an aggressive 18 year old male chimp that has been challenging the group’s alpha male, ran by us twice throwing pieces of branches in our general direction. Our guide said that this was not really aggression, just high spirits.

After resting in the afternoon, we went to John and Lydiah Kasenene’s beautiful house near Kasiisi School for a celebratory party. There was fine dancing and fine food. Headmasters, parents, elders, teachers, friends, researchers, and other people attended.

I wore “old man” garb: a long white flowing robe given to me by John Kasenene last year in the US, a simple black sports coat, and a special walking stick that connotes authority, also a gift. This brought appreciation and no doubt a few laughs. One of the Ugandans said that I was dressed in the manner one would to ask a family for their daughter as my bride.

We met Marij Steenburg from the Netherlands, who is visiting here for a couple of weeks this year. She was a research technician at the field station in the 1980s, and was the first to do systematic tree planting and to support scholars in their primary and secondary educations. Her bad experience long ago with the mango bot flies was an early warning to all other researchers and visitors of that particular risk.

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