The Kibale Family

WHO ARE THE KIBALE FAMILY?

THEY’RE JUST LIKE US!

 Lanjo is a young, adult male in his prime. A male chimpanzee of his age and condition weighs approximately 80-120 pounds, and is several times stronger than an adult human. Since reaching maturity, Lanjo increased rapidly in social rank and is a leading competitor for the alpha position (which was recently vacated by the death of Kakama). Like humans leaders, some alpha chimpanzees lead by brute force, while others play politics, forming valuable alliances with other strong males.

 Max, unlike Lanjo, has not managed to attain high rank in the community. He is smaller in size and lost both of his feet to wire snares when he was a juvenile, limiting his ability to compete. In chimpanzee families, males remain in their mothers’ groups throughout their lives and form close relationships with other males. Unfortunately, Max’s mother is not very social with other chimpanzees, preferring to range alone. Such habits limited Max’s opportunity to engage with mature males as he was growing up.

 Outamba is a very successful mother in her early thirties. Since immigrating into the Kimbale family, she has given birth to 5 offspring. Chimpanzees reproduce very slowly, usually with about 5-8 years between each birth. However, Outbama’s first births have only been 3-4 years apart. It is clear that Outbama is the highest-ranking female.

 Gola is a young infant in the community, born to Outamba. Chimpanzee infants are born better developed than human infants. Gola’s mother will provide milk for her for 2-4 years, but gradually Gola will venture away from her mother’s embrace for longer periods of time. Young chimps like to use sticks from the forest as toys, carrying a favourite stick around for long periods of time. Girls like Gola carry their sticks close to them and even build sleeping nests to place their sticks in. Boy chimpanzees are more likely to poke or hit other chimpanzees with their sticks.

 Quinto is a recent immigrant in the community. Females typically transfer between communities when they reach sexual maturity. This is likely to avoid mating with fathers and brothers in their natal communities. While males welcome these new females, resident females are very aggressive, forming coalitions to exclude new female from feeding areas.

 Ipassa and Tuke are adolescent chimpanzees entering the critical age of puberty. As a female, Ipassa will soon begin experiencing sexual cycles and receive increasing attention from males. Tuke will begin forming relationships with the adult males of the family. While finding his way in the politics of the chimpanzee community are essential for Tuke’s future success, Ipassa’s objectives are to find the best place for her and her future offspring to forage.

MEETING THE KIBALE FAMILY

Gillie and Marc travelled to Uganda in January 2019 to research and study the incredible apes of Africa. In order to meet the Kibale family, the artists flew from Entebbe to a far flung airstrip called Kihihi near the Kibale Forest National Park. Kibale National Park is one of Africa’s premier destinations for chimpanzee tracking tours. The 795 square kilometres of the park contain some of the continent’s most dense and varied rainforest and are home to 13 species of primates.

Here Gillie and Marc stayed in a lodge surrounded by the stunning backdrop of the crater lake Kyaninga. After an early breakfast, they embarked from the visitor Centre into Kibale National park to track the chimp family for around 3-4 hours. It was amazing to see them in the wild and get so close and watch how they all live together.  They were very energetic and excitable, yet cautious of human presence.

They realised that the Kibale chimp family are just like us! They are amazing social creatures and highly intelligent. It was wonderful to see how this family unit worked, each with their own place but with such different personalities. It was so sweet watching how young chimps play with sticks. Females like to keep their stick close and build them sleeping nests, males generally prefer to poke others! Chimp numbers are plummeting, mainly due to hunting for their meat and the destruction of their habitat. We cannot let our closest relatives go extinct!

The artists were also lucky enough to experience Chimpanzees up close when they visit Ol Pejeta in 2017. The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary was established in 1993 to provide a haven and protection for young abused and orphaned chimps around the world. It is currently home to 39 rescued apes. The sanctuary was formed as an alliance between The Jane Goodall Institute and Kenyan Wildlife Services and is the only place in Kenya where non-indigenous chimpanzees can be seen. The Sanctuary provides a permanent refuge in as natural environment as possible – the chimpanzees are protected on an island with the only access available by boat.