chimpanzees in the forest

foggy sunrise on N’dougou Lagoon

We were on N’Dougou Lagoon shortly after sunrise, on our way to Sette Cama village to meet Kassa, our guide for a morning forest walk. The forest was interspersed with savannas, where in the past we have spotted elephants and buffaloes. Crossing the third savanna of our walk, Smithsonian interns Philip, Caitlin, with Lisa and myself, following Kassa, stopped to listen to a distant wailing series of calls in the forest before us. It was difficult to tell whether primate or bird. We entered the forest and the wailing resumed, and with addition of a few hoots, we realized it was chimpanzees we were hearing. They were now close enough to divert our walk, and Kassa led us through the thick forest toward the chimpanzees. Of course they heard us coming and fled before we were able to get a glimpse. We turned back, but something held my attention for a moment longer.

A chimpanzee in the canopy of a large fruiting tree near Loango National Park.

A slight rustling in the large tree overhead sounded suspiciously like a primate. Thinking any monkeys would have left the area well ahead of approaching chimpanzees, we continued to listen while searching the branches. Two chimpanzees suddenly blew their cover as they realized they were trapped and proceeded to scream bloody murder from the canopy. Receiving no response from their departed brothers, they reconsidered their strategy. Quietly shimming down to the forest floor, they stole away through the underbrush. One of the chimpanzees, not clear on where we were standing, ambled along in our direction, popping out of the vegetation a few meters in front of us. The look of astonishment on his face (and ours, no doubt) was priceless as he realized his blunder and hastily galloped away through the forest.

Philip and Caitlin follow Kassa through a swamp in the chimpanzee forest.

One response to “chimpanzees in the forest”

  1. Joan And Pete Catalfu Avatar
    Joan And Pete Catalfu

    thanks for sharing your encounter with the chimps. Hope you enjoyed your visit home. We were so happy to see you.

    Love Aunt Joan and Uncle Pete

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