Tourists and conservationists will miss the joyous moments they have shared with Zakayo, Uganda’s oldest known captive chimpanzee, after he died aged 54 on Thursday (26 April 2018).
According to Tourism Uganda, a Twitter handle run by the country’s ministry of tourism through Uganda Tourism Board, Zakayo succumbed to chronic gastroenteritis.
“Due to his old age, he was highly susceptible to opportunistic infections,” the post added.
Zakayo has lived at UWEC in Entebbe, about 40km from the capital Kampala for the last 42 years.
Zakayo is said to have nurtured two alpha male chimpanzees, Matooke, who led the group up to 2013 and Aluma who took over in 2013 to date.
“Please join us as we celebrate the life of this legendary chimpanzee who once lived as a dominant male and brought up the chimpanzee family at UWEC,” the ministry tweeted.
Zakayo’s 54th birthday was celebrated last October with a number of activities such as tree-planting.
Zakayo was the alpha male from 1976 to 2011. Even when he ceded power, he was still the most respected of the 18-member family of chimpanzees at UWEC.
Bashir Hangi, Communication Manager Uganda Wildlife Authority on Thursday confirmed Zakayo’s death, although he did not have further details.
Zakayo was rescued from Mount Rwenzori jungles in Bundibugyo district in 1964 then aged one year, by a White man. He kept Zakayo until he was 14 years before surrendering him to UWEC in 1976.