Upon my arrival at Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel in Entebbe I was ready to meet other participants attending PASA’s 2011 Education Workshop. I relied on Innocent, a hotel staff member, to tell me where other PASA members were. I was really excited to meet and learn from them! I eventually met Mr. James, moderator of the workshop, who I chatted with for a while as other participants were joining us. We soon had dinner during which we listened to instructions and the agenda from Anne Warner, Executive Director of PASA. Anne then announced the first activity… a visit to Ngamba Island!
PASA Executive Director Anne Warner and participants on a boat to Ngamba Island.
On the boat to Ngamba Island we had so much fun! While introducing myself, I had to introduce two people from the group and this was my first time to see everyone there. Do you think it was easy? Yes, it was because this was a safe learning environment and each activity had a lesson behind it. I tried to introduce two people from the group and the rest clapped for me! Anne Warner, very happy and proud, could also introduce three of them. It was so much fun and very important for the entire group because it helped each of the participants to know each other as people who were going to spend time together, learn together, exchange ideas, and even establish relationships. The journey by boat was long but I didn’t realize because of good times we were having till we landed at the island.
With much attention, we listened to Bruce who is a staff member of Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust at Ngamba Island (CSWCT).
Bruce from Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust at Ngamba Island shared great information. This sanctuary started with only 19 chimps in 1998. As time went on the number of chimps increased which made a number of 44 chimpanzees at Ngamba. Great Apes and monkeys such as Mountain Gorillas and bonobos face a number of problems like human encroachment, bush meat trade, loss of habitat, selling them as pets, and some of them are orphaned. Bruce talked about how chimps are almost as intelligent as people. Chimps are able to use tools such as taking a stick to get termites out of the mound and how they can get a ground nut which is at the bottom of a narrowed tube- they pour water into the tube and when full the ground nut floats on the surface of the water and the chimp gets it! These chimps don’t find a lot of food at the sanctuary. The space is 95 acres. For this, they are fed four times a day by their caretakers. Their diet includes carrot, cucumber, watermelon, papaya, pineapple, sugarcane, and sweet potato. As we all know, chimpanzees and gorillas are our relatives and we share much in common so they need care and protection. They are both over 90 percent genetically similar to you and me! After Bruce’s talk we visited the chimpanzees in their enclosures.
These chimps are in enclosure of electrical fence as we view them in a distance.
As I said, these chimps don’t find enough food in the sanctuary. They were looking through the fence getting ready to receive food from their caregiver. While viewing them it was their lunch time. I listened to much noise and watched the excitement and happiness as they were being fed. This is again like us humans; animals need attention because they play an important role in the ecosystem. So it was so wonderful to see these chimps!
Here I am posing for a photo in front of the holding facility of chimpanzees at the sanctuary.
There are lots of threats to the Great Apes. When a poacher wants a baby chimp or gorilla, he/she will kill the entire family and the baby will stay lonely and extremely traumatized. All of these consequences affect the baby more than we could ever imagine. It becomes orphaned and who knows it even takes germs from the poacher? If rescued this baby won’t join the other chimps at the sanctuary immediately. It is put in a quarantine facility for a checkup and also to see if introduction to other chimps is plausible. So… chimps in such situations are put into what we call holding facilities where doctors can easily study their life condition.
PASA members listen to Dr. Joshua talking about how he treats chimpanzees.
Among our Art of Conservation’s lessons back in Rwanda, we have lessons on how Gorilla Doctors treat mountain gorillas and how we must all be kind to animals. Our children learn about being kind to animals and if you treat an animal well it will treat us well. When you treat an animal in a cruel manner it may do the same. Our students get a chance to watch the Gorilla Doctors demonstrate with a dart gun and flying syringe showing them how they treat a sick or snared mountain gorilla. This was the same case for us at Ngamba Island. Dr. Joshua showed us the equipment he uses to treat chimpanzees as well as his lab table and medicines. This time, I was able to learn more about animal doctors!
More on this coming up soon. Stay tuned!