Deep in the jungle, a whoop of excitement breaks out. It is quickly joined by a dozen additional voices and grows in volume, tempo, and tone to a frenzied screeching crescendo. It is the well-known “panthoot” call, a bonding ceremony that enables the participants to recognize one another through distinctive vocal tics. This spine-tingling outburst also serves as a warning to humans trekking through Gombe Stream’s old woodlands that they may soon come into eye contact with man’s closest genetic ancestor. a chimpanzee.
The smallest of Tanzania’s national parks, Gombe is a precarious sliver of chimpanzee habitat that straddles the jagged cliffs and river valleys that enclose the lake Tanganyika’s sandy northern shore.
Its chimpanzees, who had become accustomed to human visitors, gained fame thanks to the groundbreaking work of Dr. Jane Goodall, who established the world’s longest-running behavioral research program in 1960. Dr. Jane Goodall first set foot in Gombe when Fifi was just three years old. Fifi was the matriarch of the original community; she was born in 1958 and passed away in 2004.
Since chimpanzees and humans share 98% of the same genes, it is not necessary to be a scientist to distinguish between the distinctive repertoires of pants, hoots, and screams that characterize the celebrities, the power brokers, and the supporting cast. When you gaze into a chimpanzee’s eyes and they glance back at you, perhaps you will notice a spark of comprehension – a look of apparent recognition across the thinnest of species borders.
The other mammals that live in Gombe are mostly primates. While red-tailed and red colobus monkeys—the latter of which are frequently hunted by chimpanzees—stick to the forest canopy, a population of beachcomber olive baboons, which has been studied since the 1960s, is particularly accustomed. The 200 or so bird species in the park include the recognizable fish eagle and the stunning jewel-like birds.
Twin spots belonging to Peter that timidly jump around the visitor center. As night falls after dark, a brilliant night sky is enhanced by the lamps of hundreds of little wooden boats that are seen bobbing on the lake in the form of an expansive city.