When we entered Kigoma,
a small town in Africa, our guide Sixtus, asked us if we
were excited to meet our cousins. We went to Mahale and
came to find out what he meant. The chimpanzees of
Mahale are our cousins, in fact, they really are our
family. For three days, we woke up in the morning and
in our own troup we hiked the slippery slopes of the
mountains of Kuai to our family reunion, of sorts.
Here we learned and saw
how our other family lived. The chimps used seeds and
leaves to cure upset stomachs. They made nests out of
leaves and branches of the trees. The chimps were able
to show us how they ate, slept, fought and helped each
other. All of these things are things we did as well.
Once, not long ago, we formed communities like these
chimps and in a asimilar forest, learned everything that
has helped make us human.
The chimps depend
heavily on their environment; every foraging spot is
different each day, one day in a marsh, the next eating
fruit in a tree and after that, traveling in the
mountains high in the clouds. Their forest is very
important to them and their way of life. However, the
only ape that can protect their home is us, their
Gombe is an amazing
place with its pristine beauty and an amazing history.
Even as the second smallest national park in Tanzania,
it housed dedicated research of chimps early in its
history with Jane Goodall and continues this research
today with its three chimpanzee troupes. The Kasekela
Troupe is the main troupe of Gombe and the most
researched troupe in the park. All of the knowledge
found there goes to helping chimp conservation.
One of the first things
researched here was the mother-child relationship.
During our stay here, we took an extensive hike and we
were rewarded by two mother chimps grooming each other
on the top of a tree. Underneath them there were their
two young chimps playing in the branches below them.
This was a great impression of the life of a chimp,
youthful enthusiasm and calm social interaction.
The young ones were
swinging, climbing, jumping, and calling in their play
while their mothers watched. Their calls filled the
forest. While we watched, I am sure each of us was
thinking of our mothers and our youth and seeing many
similarities between us and them. Seeing the
similarities between us help shape the research and
ultimately help us conserve them as a species and also