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When Uganda’s Zakayo celebrated 53rd birthday at UWEC


Thursday was a special day at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) as Zakayo, the oldest chimpanzee known in the country, celebrated its 53rd birthday.

The Wildlife Center annually celebrates Zakayo’s birthday to highlight the plight and abuse of chimpanzees and other animals. Zakayo is the oldest chimpanzee in captivity in a country where populations elsewhere face deforestation and hunting,

Zakayo was rescued in 1972 and was brought to UWEC in June 1976  from Semliki Park. He was among the first into the semi-natural exhibit built for the chimpanzees when UWEC transformed into a zoo in 1994. He was the alpha male (dominant) until 2012, and has therefore fathered most of the chimps at the UWEC.


According to experts, chimps in the wild can live for 40 or 50 years, but longer if in captivity.

The celebration in Entebbe was witnessed by school children singing “happy birthday”, wildlife officials and journalists. Zakayo clearly enjoyed a birthday cake and a variety of fruits.

“He has made it easy for us to integrate new infants and juveniles of rescued chimps,” said Dan Mirembe, primate keeper at the zoo.

According to Mirembe, Zakayo is accorded respect as an elder. “When he is calling for order, he walks bipedally while clapping his hands and screams. The rest immediately go quiet,” Mirembe said.

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