Apes are on the verge of extinction due to extreme poaching for bush meat and their global demand to be used for scientific research, but there are initiatives to save the endangered species.
There are increasingly necessitated efforts to help protect the great endangered chimpanzees and gorillas that are likely to become extinct because of their increasing demand globally.
A man feeds a chimpanzee in its cage.
The apes are poached for bush meat while others are sold to various countries to conduct scientific research because of their comparable features with man.
A visit to the established Ngamba island chimpanzee sanctuary, put up to care for the chimpanzees being rescued within Uganda, calls for more devoted efforts to keep the few remaining chimpanzee species that are regularly hunted, safe.
In addition to providing a safe home and ensuring the welfare of "our wild cousins", the island provides high quality educational experience for visitors as well as benefiting the island community members.
Ngamba sanctuary operations director Dr Lawrence Mugisha says approximately 5,000 chimpanzees are killed by poachers for bush meat and trade every year.
"As a by-product of this illegal practice, dozens of infant chimpanzees are taken alive from forests, bound for the pet trade throughout Africa and the rest of the world while others are killed," Dr Mugisha says.
He says establishing a refuge with a specific mission for these orphaned chimpanzees was in order, to compliment the legal enforcement efforts of the Uganda wildlife authority against this undesirable trade.
Uganda is a safari country that has been prominently known as the land of the great apes. Besides trekking gorillas and viewing chimpanzees, tourists experience the sights and sounds of the leopard, bush back, buffalo and the golden monkeys.
Dr Mugisha also attributes the increased great apes poaching to population explosion that is apparently 3.3 percent according to the recent Uganda bureau of statisticsfigures. He says the people destroy apes' habitats by clearing forests to create more land for expansion.
The Ngamba Island chimpanzees sanctuary where apes rescued from poachers are being taken care of.
He adds that the threats to the remaining chimpanzee population and its habitats are still numerous. "One of these threats is the possibility of disease transmission from humans to gorillas and vice versa."
Several diseases like Ebola and HIV A, B and O greatly kills the apes through contact from both people and other factors. He says tourism is the second foreign exchange earner to the country, based on gorilla trekking and chimpanzee viewing.
Mugisha holds that the exchange earner may soon die out if both government and community members do not do something about the increasing animal jeopardy.
"In order to address the issue of potential disease transmission to the gorillas and chimps, we mitigate behavioural disturbances to this fragile population, and put gorilla rules," he added.
Mugisha stresses that following the rules set and purchase of permits, could contribute to the conservation of the great apes. He adds that Uganda wildlife authority uses the funds generated from the sale of these permits for the management of national parks.
Chimpanzees and gorillas are the world's most endangered apes; they are found only in small portions of Ngamba Islands, protected afro montane forests in Northwest Rwanda, Southwest Uganda, Eastern DRC and the Uganda wildlife educational centre among other places.
The apes are of many species unique to these forests. The forests are also home to many wonderful birds, primates, large mammals, reptiles, insects and plants and also ensure continued water and medical plant resources for the local communities.
Ngamba island sanctuary manager Dr Fred Nyeimana says the relationship between the juvenile chimpanzees and adults at the sanctuary has improved greatly despite continuous wrestling between the animals to see who will be leader.
He says Rambo, Rutoto and Kikyo formed a camp that always antagonises Naku, Billy and Oketch. He adds that Rambo uses his acrobat skills to attack other young females in the group. As a result many females continue to develop an inferiority complex before the three young boys.
There are several efforts to save the great apes like the establishment of The great apes survival project as one of eight millennium development goals (MDGs) associated with the Declaration adopted at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000.
Parliament also passed a law banning the sale of gorilla permits since the early 1990s in an effort to save the apes from being exported to other countries.
Tourism is one of the leading sectors in the world economy and according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), it is projected to grow to $8.0trillion worth of economic activity and create 328 million jobs globally by 2010. However, Uganda's share of the tourism industry is still insignificant although inbound tourist numbers continue to increase.
In terms of employment, the tourism sector is rated next to the retail trade and accounts for 20 percent of persons employed in the country (Ubos 2004).
However, the contribution of the tourism sector to the economy is currently not accurately measured because of a lack of data on important parameters such as sites visited by both domestic and international tourists, hotel occupancy rates and expenditure by tourists. Measures to improve the collection and analysis of tourism data are planned for 2004/05.