By Deus Ngowi
Geia — Rubondo Island National Park has devised a strategy targeted at habituating chimpanzees and turn it into a new tourist product.
The Chief Park Warden, Mr Massana Mwishawa said here that as opposed to the chimps at Gombe National Park that were being fed in the process, the ones at Rubondo are being habituated in a natural way.
He said the chimpanzees have a long history, as were brought to the park from zoos in Europe where they were taken to West Africa but found unfavourable conditions and turned stubborn.
"They had their origins from West Africa, taken to some zoos in Europe but could not cope with the situation, they could neither be returned to West Africa as the area had been degraded so some stakeholders found it imperative to bring them to Rubondo Island National Park.
"They were not taken to Gombe or Mahale Mountains National Park because there are natural chimps that have already been habituated.
We are now with local experts who are in the process of habituating the chimps and soon they will be a tourist product," said Mr Mwishawa.
Expounding on the matter, an expert in habituation of the animals, Warden Shaibu Utenga said the habituation has not been easy and the experts would make neutral visits to the park, record what chimps do, observing a tolerance of at least 20 to 30 metres
"In May this year we stayed with them for 15 consecutive days. We (habituation experts) are a fourth group, the first three had little success but now we are advancing well. We plan to start habituation experience to tourists in the few coming months so that visitors would be part of the habituators," he unveiled.
Mr Utenga noted that in Europe the chimps were kept in cages, turned hostile to the extent that they started attacking people so the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) in collaboration with Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) introduced them to Rubondo Island National Park.
The first cohort of chimpanzees arrived in Dar es Salaam aboard the German African Line's steamship Eibe Oldendorff on 17th June 1966.
The animals had no rehabilitation or pre-release training. Mr Utenga said now the chimps know the habituators well but said are yet to start naming the chimps.
The Chief Park Warden Mr Mwishawa said Rubondo was chosen as a national park due to its unique nature; being an island, a habitat for animals, fish and birds, well conserved and still in its natural state.
He noted that migrating birds from North Africa, Europe and Asia call to the island due to changing world climatic conditions. The island weather has similarities to Congo forests, with thick forests influencing availability of rain.