Zaakayo Turns 54

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On Friday 27 October, the retired alpha male chimpanzee known as Zakayo at the Uganda wildlife education center (zoo) celebrated his 53rd birthday amidst cheers, handclaps and singing a birthday song for him by the wildlife conservationists as he headed towards his fruit cake prepared by the UWEC management. Although he was given a stick to cut the cake, he however abandoned it and just pinched it with his hands.
A good number of visitors were present during Zakayo’s special day. Majority of them had come to acquire knowledge about wild animals but they were very amazed by the interesting character of Zakayo. A few students recited poems about wildlife during the celebrating session.
On top of Zakayo’s birthday celebrations, a number of events were organized to compliment this overwhelming celebration. Educative talks about chimpanzees, art exhibitions, music dance and drama from different schools are some of the events that took place on this same special day.
Coming from a family that consisting of 18 strong members whose DNA is very close to humans, Zakayo is a very respected member in this group. He retired as the alpha male 6 years ago and handed over power to a younger chimpanzee called Matooke who was later succeeded by another called Aluma, Zakayo had occupied this position for 35 years. He is famously known for his caring attribute, being a peace maker by reconciling conflicting members and most of all, for his special love towards children and this explains why after eating a small portion of the cake, he called the juveniles to have their share but when the adult chimps appeared, he took all of it running off to the tree shades.
Zakayo was saved by an unidentified white man at the age of 1 year who kept him for 13 years. Later, he was handed over to Entebbe zoo 41 years back. Chimps have an estimated life span of 60 years, UWEC has exclusively taken good care of this long living primate through providing a safe habitat, regular meals, fruits and routine health checkups. This exceptional care accompanied by God’s power has seen Zakayo survive all this time.
In the earlier years, the political unrest in the country could have been a cause of Zakayo’s downfall because patrons used to smoke cigarettes in his presence but with luck on his side, Zakayo did not develop lung cancer. Recently, UWEC together with the Uganda wildlife authority (UWA) and the chimpanzee wildlife trust Ngamba island, work hand in hand to protect the chimps.
Uganda has quite a good number of chimp habitats i.e Kibale forest, Kyambura gorge in Queen Elizabeth national park, Budongo forest in Masindi and Ngamba Island on Lake Victoria. Therefore, we have come to a conclution and with a lot of pride to tell you that this pearl of Africa is blessed with chimpanzees in crazy large numbers. The chimps on Ngamba Island share a common history with Zakayo because they were also abandoned just like him.