Experts say apes ambush human habitations near forests to snatch food and show anger against encroachment
Like humans, chimpanzees, also known as chimps – a species of great ape – are fiercely protecting their territory in western Uganda, by frequently launching attacks on nearby human habitations that have encroached on forests.
The battles between chimps and villagers have become frequent over the past six months killing four children and leaving dozens of others injured.
Experts believe that one of the main factors behind the attacks is that human habitations are coming up on the large tracts of forests and they encroach on the territory of chimps, thereby angering them.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, William Mugulusi, a local chief of Bugala village, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of the capital Kampala, said the behavior of chimpanzees has become ferocious, and are attacking homes near the forests.
“The chimpanzees have gone wild after part of the forest where they have been living for centuries got destroyed by a company that is planting sugar canes. They mostly attack women and children while in gardens,” he said.
The Busitema forest in the eastern Ugandan district of Busia, 170 km (105 mi) east of the capital of Kampala has also reported attacks by chimpanzees.
James Osike, a police officer, told Anadolu Agency that invading chimps beat anyone they find on their way. He said that in the past six months 15 chimpanzees have died in the battle with humans. At least 10 of them have been poisoned by villagers.
“The diminishing forests have brought about the enmity between people and chimpanzees. The chimpanzees now attack people’s homes and steal their food from the kitchens in addition to attacking their gardens and eating raw food,” he said.
One of the victims, Beatrice Nyakwera, said the chimps lay an ambush like trained soldiers at a time when people carry food from the garden.
“They grab the food and run away,” she said.
Worst hit regions
Bashir Hangi, spokesman for Ugandan Wildlife Authority, said the Bunyoro sub-region in the districts of Bugoma, Kibale Buliisa, Kagadi, and Hoima, all located in western Uganda, have been the worst hit reporting most of the chimp attacks.
He said that at times the chimpanzees attack villages in an organized manner by moving in a group like soldiers in a formation. Some of them attack and some maintain defense lines.
Hangi blamed human beings for such behavior of chimps. He said the human encroachment on their habitats has angered chimps, who do not allow infringement on their territory.
According to scientists, chimpanzees share around 98% of their DNA with humans. They are highly social and intelligent, live in communities, and are led by an alpha male.
Although they normally walk on all fours (knuckle-walking), chimpanzees can stand and walk upright. Chimpanzees have long arms, hands, and fingers, which help them climb trees and swing from branch to branch.
Dismus Ishoke, games warden in Queen Elizabeth national park, said the chimpanzees are a big attraction for tourists.
Although banned and inviting strict action, some people catch young chimpanzees and take them to their homes to keep as pets, he said.
James Silver Birungi, an officer at Ngamba chimpanzee sanctuary located on an island in Lake Victoria, said they have 52 chimpanzees, which had been recovered from smugglers and from people, who had kept them as pets.