, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 377–388 | Cite as

Cars kill chimpanzees: case report of a wild chimpanzee killed on a road at Bulindi, Uganda

  • Matthew R. McLennanEmail author
  • Caroline Asiimwe
Original Article


Roads have broadly adverse impacts on wildlife, including nonhuman primates. One direct effect is mortality from collisions with vehicles. While highly undesirable, roadkills provide valuable information on the health and condition of endangered species. We present a case report of a wild chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) killed crossing a road in Bulindi, Uganda, where chimpanzees inhabit forest fragments amid farmland. Details of the collision are constructed from eyewitness accounts of pedestrians. Physical examination of the cadaver indicated good overall body condition; at 40 kg, the deceased female was heavier than usual for an adult female East African chimpanzee. No external wounds or fractures were noted. Coprological assessment demonstrated infection by several gastrointestinal parasites commonly reported in living wild chimpanzees. Histopathology revealed eosinophilic enteritis and biliary hyperplasia potentially caused by parasite infection. However, eosinophilia was not widely spread into the submucosa, while egg/cyst counts suggested low-intensity parasite infections compared to healthy female chimpanzees of similar age in nearby Budongo Forest. No behavioral indicators of ill health were noted in the deceased female in the month prior to the accident. We conclude that cause of death was acute, i.e., shock from the collision, and was probably unrelated to parasite infection or any other underlying health condition. Notably, this female had asymmetrical polythelia, and, while nursing at the time of her death, had one functioning mammary gland only. In Uganda, where primates often inhabit human-dominated landscapes, human population growth and economic development has given rise to increasing motor traffic, while road development is enabling motorists to travel at greater speeds. Thus, the danger of roads to apes and other wildlife is rising, necessitating urgent strategies to reduce risks. Installation of simple speed-bumps—common on Ugandan roads—would be effective in reducing risks to wildlife, and would also make roads safer for human pedestrians.


Anthropogenic impacts Conservation Great apes Necropsy Roads Roadkill 



For assistance on the day of the accident and necropsy, we thank Geoffrey Muhanguzi, Tom Sabiiti, Gerald Majanda, Eric Okwir, Pawel Fedurek, Thibaud Gruber, Jess Hartel, and the Kibale Snare Removal Project team (Mugisha Paul, Okwilo John, Nyesiga Godfrey, Tweheyo John, Friday Charles, and Twinamasiko Amos), the BCFS snare removal team (Ofeni Azima, Dominic Andi, Lemi Moses, Seteson Ocukuru, Julius Adriko, and Emmanuel Wambe), local field staff of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust, and local people of the Bulindi and Kibugubya parishes. We are grateful for the laboratory work by Mathias Afayoa (CDL) and Paul Zziwa, Timothy Mugabe and Jacob Aliyo, Andrew Wange and Walter Akankwasa (BCFS). We are grateful to the President’s Office, the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, and Uganda Wildlife Authority for permission to study the chimpanzees of Bulindi. MM’s fieldwork was supported by the Leverhulme Trust. We further thank the Arcus Foundation for supporting the Chimpanzee Health Monitoring Programme, Oakland Zoo for supporting the BCFS snare removal team, and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland for core funding to BCFS. Comments from Kim Hockings, Sabrina Krief, and an anonymous reviewer helped us to improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anthropology Centre for Conservation, Environment and Development, Faculty of Humanities and Social SciencesOxford Brookes UniversityOxfordUK
  2. 2.Budongo Conservation Field StationMasindiUganda

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