VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers


Aaron Sandel

of NG Young Explorers


I am a PhD student in Anthropology at the University of Michigan. I
write from Ngogo, in the center of Kibale National Park in Uganda,
home to 200 chimpanzees, the subjects of my dissertation. A National
Geographic Young Explorers grant in 2013 got me through the angst of
finalizing a dissertation project. Now, I study angst, or at least the
closest thing to it: friendship and the transition to adulthood in
male chimpanzees. When I’m not focused on following a chimpanzee, my
forest daydreams include opening a vegan burrito restaurant in a rural
Ugandan village and making a documentary about an old fig tree.

Friends, Foes, or Food: Among Cannibal Warrior Chimps

The group of chimps broke apart and sprinted down the hill. I ran after them. I heard a chorus of screams. When I caught up to them, they were in a pig-pile grappling over something.

Strange Chimp Behavior Alerts Researchers to Poachers

When poachers threaten the forest, researchers and wildlife rangers take action.

Watch and Wonder as a Chimp Does His “Rain Dance”

Thunder shakes the air as Garrison, an elderly male, stands upright and begins to strut, grasping at branches with his hands and dragging them as he walks.

“Teen” Chimps Searching for Themselves

Aaron Sandel is confronting the angst of entering adulthood, one day of data collection at a time—alongside his “colleague,” Benny. Who is Benny, you ask?

Charging Chimps, Chasing Poachers, & Other Drama

On the heals of a poacher, chasing chimps doesn’t seem so hard.

Skeletons in the Forest: Life, Death, and the Dynamics of a National Park

The forces of the forest make searching for chimpanzees, alive or dead, a challenge.

How Big are Camera Shy Chimps? Measuring Body Size in the Forest

Even with high-tech methods, measuring body size in wild chimpanzees is difficult.

Searching for Chimps & Other Misadventures in an Ugandan Forest

Bee stings to the face, deadly serpents, and raging arson fires…no day is the same for a chimp researcher in Uganda.