A photographer goes inside a frightening chimp-human conflict in Uganda

He sees fear, grief, and, ultimately, acceptance when habitat loss causes chimpanzees to raid properties in a small village.

Wild chimpanzees whose natural habitat has shrunk approach a home in Kyamajaka, Uganda.

I took this photograph (above) through the window of an abandoned home in a village in western Uganda. As I watched, one wild chimpanzee entered the yard, then another. Though they stared hard at the windows, I knew they couldn’t see me behind the mirrored glass—and I was glad.  

During past fieldwork, I’d been around scores of wild chimpanzees and shadowed them at close range. Yet until this photo assignment in 2017, I had never tried to hide from chimps. I had never even imagined writing such a sentence. 

That was before I met the Semata family and saw firsthand how depleted land and forest, and scarce food and crops, can unleash competition between primates, those inside houses and those outside.

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