Gombe Stream National Park
Your first awareness of wild chimps may be through hearing their calls, for they communicate very loudly when separated by vegetation or distance. Their most common call is the"pant-hoot", a thrilling crescendo of clear rising hoots, often by all members of a group in chorus. It may be accompanied by drumming on tree-buttresses, and it tells any listener "here we are and this is who we are", for each individual has its own distinctive hoot. Male groups often hoot when traveling, and when crossing a ridge may either hoot to announce their presence, or sit and listen for a while to find out who is in the next valley.
Irregular, excited barks are given by chimps who have found a new food-source; loud tense repeated screams are given by a chimp who is being threatened or attacked by another; loud wailing "wraa!" calls are responses to something strange or frightening, like a big snake. The hoarse, panting laughter of playing infants may be the only clue to the presence of a mother with young; such groups make few other sounds.
If you do not know where to find chimpanzees, the best way to start is to climb high up on a ridge and listen for any of these calls, while scanning the trees for black shapes. Do not be discouraged if you hear nothing; they may still be there!
When you find chimpanzees, they may well be traveling from one feeding-place to the next. They always travel on the ground, walking on the soles of their feet and the knuckles (second joints) of their fingers. They often follow well-defined trails, in single file, but they can be hard to follow because they keep up a steady pace even when their trails become small tunnels through thorny vines, to which the human form is poorly adapted!
Special Thanks to Thomson Safaris and Tanzania National Parks for contributing Tanzanian information.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication