Zakayo, the 53 years old Chimpanzee becomes the oldest chimp in captivity as populations of primates elsewhere face deforestation and hunting.
Today Thursday 27th October 2016, Zakayo is celebrating 53 years at the Uganda Wildlife Education center at Entebbe, formally known as Entebbe Zoo. The celebration was attended by many people especially students invited from different schools as a way to sensitize the young generation about wildlife conservation for future generations.
With the crowd singing Happy Birthday, Zakayo took three bites of a birthday cake before running back to call the 14 other primates to join in as they scrambled for the sweet food.
According to the Primate Keeper at UWEC Mirembe Dan, Zakayo is an icon and father figure.
“He has made it easy for us to integrate new infants and juveniles of rescued chimps, except for Kiri the hermaphrodite….” he said.
Being the eldest, Zakayo is accorded respect among his peers and intervenes to settle disputes amongst the community members. “When he is calling for order, he walks bipedally while clapping his hands and screams. The rest immediately go quiet,” said Dan.
Zakayo reportedly named after a bodyguard of infamous former ruler Idi Amin was rescued in 1972 from Semliki National Park, Bundibugyo in Western Uganda and settled in Entebbe Zoo in 1976. Chimpanzees in the wild can live for 40 or 50 years but longer if in captivity.
UWEC has been celebrating Zakayo’s birthday for about six years to highlight the plight and abuse of chimpanzees in the animal trade.
According to the World Wildlife Fund chimps have disappeared from four African countries already and face extinction in several others. Deforestation and hunting are blamed for their decline.