For years, people in the African nation of Uganda have faced a dire threat unimaginable to many in other parts of the world: violent attacks by agitated chimpanzees.
A National Geographic story from Nov. 8 provides the tragic details.
Perhaps the most chilling incident comes from 2014, in the village of Kyamajaka.
While chimps had been encroaching on the village for months, their crimes were relatively harmless. In search of food, the apes stole bananas, mangoes and papayas.
On July 20, however, one chimp ran off with 2-year-old Mujuni Semata.
The chimp had entered the Semata family’s garden and taken Mujuni while his mother, Ntegeka, had her back turned.
While Ntegeka and other villagers gave chase, they couldn’t reach the toddler in time to save him.
“It broke off the arm, hurt him on the head, and opened the stomach and removed the kidneys,” Ntegeka Semata told National Geographic in 2017.
Mujuni died while he was being rushed to the hospital.
The Semata family’s horror has not been the only instance of chimp aggression in Uganda.
In the area surrounding the nearby town of Muhororo, at least three people have been killed by the animals and half a dozen others have been injured.
Conservationists and government officials alike are concerned that habitat disruption may be behind the chimpanzees’ growing violence.
As Uganda’s population has grown, forests have been cleared throughout the country to make room for cropland.
Private forests are prime chimp habitat — and fall outside the jurisdiction of government agencies.
When those forests are cleared, the apes, classified as endangered, are forced to venture out into farmland and villages.
In Kyamajaka, for example, the chimps nest in what remains of the adjacent woods at night and forage in the village during the day.
They feed on local crops and even drink from the stream where village children fetch water.
The chimps’ boldness is proving to be a terror to villagers.
Police reports from Muhororo reveal disturbing details about two children in the town who were attacked by chimps in 2017.
A group of the apes took toddler Maculate Rukundo while her mother was farming. Villagers tracked the chimps into the forest, where they found the girl’s eviscerated body.
Weeks later, chimps attacked a 1-year-old, who sustained injuries but survived.
According to police, six other young children had been killed by chimps in the area.
The horror stories go on, with National Geographic describing over a dozen more macabre attacks.
Without an apparent solution to the problem, Ugandans continue to live in fear.
“I am scared all the time that other chimpanzees might come back,” Ntegeka Semata said.
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