By Gerald Tenywa
A three kilogramme fruit cake is what Zakayo, the alpha male at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) crunched and munched as he celebrated his 50th birthday.
As soon as he smelt something good, Zakayo lifted the cake and its wrapping and hide in the thickets on Budongo forest. He quickly peeled off the wrappers. On realising, Zakayo climbed to the top of the tallest tree where he consumed it alone.
This was part of the fanfare that unfolded on Saturday morning at the wild side of Entebbe also known as Entebbe Zoo where 11 orphan chimps led by Matooke have been staying after being rescued from suspected poachers and smugglers.
The children accompanied by their parents showered Zakayo with birthday gifts including yellow bananas.
UWEC staff and their guests pose for a picture in front of the chimps after cutting cake to commemorate Zakayo's
The bananas are part of their favourite meal, according to Isaac Mujasi who is the marketing manager at the wildlife centre.
The chimps used sticks to fish out the bananas from water. Most of the bananas, which children were throwing across to the chimps landed in water.
The chimp island is separated from the rest of the zoo by a channel filled with water to keep the chimps on the island.
“The chimps have hands like human beings,” said Jeremy Mwesigwa, a pupil at Montessori Children’s Academy as he chuckled pulling his brother towards a better view of the beast. “They are greedy animals. They are fighting for food.”
UWEC executive director, James Musinguzi said the event was organised to highlight the plight of chimps in the wild.
He pointed out that the chimps with a population of only 4950 in Uganda are categorised as endangered.
This, according to Musinguzi has been caused by the expanding human population and conversion of chimp habitats, the expansive forests into farmland.