As we mark the Heroes day in Uganda on this 9th Day of June, 2017. Very few people would actually think of some non-human primate as being champions or idols of conservation! At 54 years old, Zakayo’s name is synonymous to chimpanzees at Uganda Wildlife Education Centre. Visitors at the facility, now in their forties or fifty years of age vividly recall the days he lived in a cage. They tell stories of how he would be offered cigarettes in return for his acrobatic antics. Many visitors who saw him in the 1980’s often ask if he is actually alive or already succumbed to tuberculosis or associated ailments? On pointing out who is Zakayo at a feeding, the joy and reciting of the ruined past he went through is often the story that comes to their mind.
Zakayo has seen the arrival of new infant chimps at UWEC, often victims of; bushmeat trade, habitat destruction or pet trade since the 1970s. He makes the integration of nee or infants chimps into the group look very simple, except Kirri (maphrodite chimp).
Although he is no-longer the alpha male, Zakayo has seen the rise of Matooke, Aluma and Onapa challenge each other for the alpha male position. In all their endeavors, Zakayo comes out as a peace lover. He has not disrupted the transfer of leadership or their efforts of building alliances as an effort to cling onto the alpha male position! He is no longer involved in aggressive displays or fights. He has not built any alliance with any alpha male contender in the group. When there is chaos, he is always one individual that the aggrieved runs to for consolation.
At UWEC, we can rightly say that Zakayo (54) years is such a good grand papa and leader. He has become Senile, but still highly respected member of the UWEC Zoo chimps.
Zakayo represents a captive chimpanzee conservation success in Uganda. You are the UWEC Zoo HERO and ambassador who continues to speak out for individuals of your kind, to remain in the wild.
Happy Heroes Day from Zakayo and hope to see you soon at the Wildlife Education Centre, Entebbe.