Saturday, May 23, 2009

Discover rare species of Chimpanzee at Gombe National Park

EVERY region in Tanzania is a tourist potential, and can be rich in either of the following, National parks, beaches, mountains, lakes, rivers and many more which are unique. In western part of the country, Tanzania is rich in rare species of chimpanzees which are well known in tourism attractions all over the world. Tanzania’s western hinterland has got remote mountains and historical meeting points.
According to the information available in western part of Tanzania, Gombe stream is the world’s centre of study on Chimpanzee and the location of the longest-running wildlife observation program on the planet. Gombe Stream is among the 15 Tanzania's national parks, is a mountainous strip that borders the shores of lake Tanganyika, located about 16 km north of Kigoma town on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania. This is Tanzania’s smallest park covering just 52 sq km. How to get there is very easy, the only way to reach there is by boat from Kigoma town, local lake taxis take up to three hours to reach Gombe national park, or motor boats can be charted, taking less than one hour. Gombe is a world famous park for chimpanzee species. The park offers visitors the rare chance to observe the Chimpanzee communities made famous by the pioneering work of British explorer and a naturalist Dr. Jane Goodall who in 1960 founded a behavioral research program that now stands as the longest-running study of its kind in the world.

Dr. Jane Goodall with a Chimpanzee in its natural habitat at Gombe National park in Kigoma, western part of Tanzania.

Dr. Goodall started the chimpanzee study which is now in its sixth generation. Gombe stream permits an easy and comprehensive visit. Dr. Jane Goodall first traveled to Tanzania in 1960 at the age of 23 with no formal college training. At the time, it was accepted that humans were undoubtedly similar to chimpanzees who share over 98 percent of the same genetic code. However, little was known about chimpanzee behavior and community structure. Dr. Goodall lived at Gombe Stream almost full-time for fifteen years and the long-term data she accumulated is still of value to scientists today. In 1967, the Gombe Stream Research Center (GSRC) was established at Kakombe Valley in Kigoma District, Tanzania to coordinate ongoing chimpanzee research in the park. The area is located on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, 15 km north of the town of Kigoma and accessible only by boat. The park lies between the lake and a rift escarpment on its eastern side, some 3-4km inland. Elevation ranges from 775m above sea level at the lake to 1500m along the escarpment. Tourists visiting Gombe stream national park never miss an opportunity of meeting a couple of chimpanzees on their way. The area is a fragile strip of chimpanzee habitat straddling the steep slopes and river valleys that hem in the sandy northern shore of Lake Tanganyika. According to Dr. Jane Goodall’s research works, Chimpanzees share about 98 percent of their genes with humans, and no scientific expertise is required to distinguish between the individual repertoires of pants, hoots and screams that define the celebrities, the powerbrokers, and the supporting characters.

A Chimpanzee at Gombe National park in Kigoma.

Perhaps you will see a flicker of understanding when you look into a chimp's eyes, assessing you in return - a look of apparent recognition across the narrowest of species barriers. The most visible of Gombe’s other mammals are also primates. A troop of beachcomber olive baboons under study since the 1960s, is exceptionally habituated, while red-tailed and red colobus monkeys - the latter regularly hunted by chimps – stick to the forest canopy. The park’s 200-odd bird species range from the iconic fish eagle to the jewel-like Peter’s twin spots that hop tamely around the visitors’ centre. After dusk, a dazzling night sky is complemented by the lanterns of hundreds of small wooden boats, bobbing on the lake like a sprawling city. A number of monkey species can also be seen including red colobus, red tail and blue monkeys. The area is heavily forested making it an unsuitable habitat for carnivores and safe for walking safaris.

Jane Goodall’s Research Findings

Without collegiate training directing her research, Dr. Goodall observed things that strict scientific doctrines may have overlooked. Instead of numbering the chimpanzees she observed, she gave them names such as Fifi and David Greybeard, and observed them to have unique and individual personalities, and unconventional idea at the time. She found that, “it isn’t only human beings who have personality, who are capable of rational thought and emotions like joy and sorrow. She also observed behaviors such as hugs, kisses, pats on the back, and even tickling, what we consider identifiable human actions. Dr. Goodall insists that these gestures are evidence of “the close, supportive, affectionate bonds that develop between family members and other individuals within a community, which can persist throughout a life span of more than 50 years. These findings suggest similarities between humans and chimpanzees exist in more than genes alone, but can be seen in emotion, intelligence, and family and social relationships.
Dr. Goodall’s research at Gombe Stream is best known to the scientific community for challenging two long-standing beliefs of the day that only humans could construct and use tools, and that chimpanzees were passive vegetarians. While observing one chimpanzee feeding at a termite mound, she watched him repeatedly place stalks of grass into termite holes, then remove it from the hole covered with clinging termites, effectively “fishing” for termites. The chimps would also take twigs from trees and strip off the leaves to make the twig more effective, a form of object modification which is the rudimentary beginnings of tool making.

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