UWECs Flagship Chimp Zakayo’s Legacy Lives On in Entebbe

By Titus Kakembo

During his life, everyone who lived in Entebbe or visited UWEC and never saw Zakayo missed the symbol of the area.

Zakayo's legacy lives on long after his death

Not so long ago after his death, Zakayo’s name remains part of the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) as memories are still fresh with this celebrity chimpanzee somersaulting to impress visitors.

As the leader of the group, he received young ones salvaged from poachers and helped assimilate them into his family. He raised his biological offsprings and adopted many whom he showed the ropes in the community.

“Zakayo made chimpanzees household products,” says UWEC executive director James Musinguzi.

“During his life, he accepted new infants and elderly chimps received at UWEC that were victims of the bushmeat trade, habitat destruction or pet trade since the 1970s.”

He is remembered for making the integration of new chimps into the group look very simple, except for Kirri (aphrodite chimp.)

“Zakayo as he aged relinquished power of being the alpha male,” recounts Musinguzi with nostalgia.

Tourism minister Tom Butime (3rd right) during the unveiling of Zakayo’s statue at UWEC. Photo by Titus Kakembo

“Like Julius Nyerere, as an elder, he witnessed the rise of Matooke, Aluma and Onapa struggle for his treasured male position.”

Animal keeper Barbra Alapo’s memory of Zakayo was of a peace lover and had his birthday celebrated every year.

“As was the case, he never disrupted the transfer of leadership or their efforts of building alliances as an effort to cling onto the alpha male position,” narrates Alapo.

“He quit aggressive displays or fights and became an observer of the trio build alliances and love the young ones to win the hearts of females.”

By the time he breathed his last, as a Jajja (grandfather) he was always run to by the other aggrieved chimpanzees for consolation.

“Zakayo represents a captive chimpanzee conservation success in Uganda,” said Tom Butime the tourism minister while unveiling his statue.

Zakayo was UWEC’s most popular chimpanzee. Photo by Titus Kakembo

“Immortalised, you are the UWEC Zoo hero and ambassador who will continue to speak out for individuals of your kind, to remain in the wild.”

Butime also relaunched Noah’s Ark for guided tours, planted a tree at the carnivore wing, and announced the installation of surveillance cameras.

“Government and UWEC’s role is in giving endangered wildlife like Zakayo another chance,” said Butime.

“This is a challenge to the entire country to help sustain wildlife which is on the brink of extinction in the wild. This needs a healthy animal population as a backup for endangered species of plants, birds, mammals, and reptiles,” Butime added.

During his life, everyone who lived in Entebbe or visited UWEC and never saw Zakayo missed the symbol of the area.

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