Updates from the Islands
The dense forest of Tchindzoulou Island is now home to 14 chimpanzees transferred from the original Tchimpounga sanctuary site over the last six months. Life has changed dramatically for these chimps. Today, they can roam freely, feeling the wet earth under their feet, smelling the scents from the lush vegetation, and listening to the island’s mysterious sounds while they explore their new surroundings.
On the island, there are a variety of trees that offer the chimpanzees large quantities of fresh, ripe fruit. To get to the fruit, the chimps often have to climb to great heights, which is a perfect workout for their muscles and brains as they balance on unstable branches. One day, some of these chimpanzees will be released in Conkouati-Douli National Park in northern Congo, so it is important for them to “practice” this type of climbing.
Before their transfer to Tchindzoulou, these chimpanzees lived in two different groups at the sanctuary, Group Three and Group Four. Because they didn’t know one another and belonged to different communities, their initial integration on the island was difficult.
Bayokele, Fani Toueck and Lounama from Group Three were transferred after their counterparts from Group Four. When they first encountered the females from Group Four who had been living on the island for a few months, it was a tense and violent situation. The island’s dominant female, Silaho, didn’t accept the three new chimpanzees and attacked them repeatedly. Silaho and the others in her group then banded together and managed to expel Bayokele, Fani Toueck and Lounama from their territory.
As a result, the three new females decided to cross the fence that divides the island and live in an area uninhabited by chimpanzees. Now there are two groups of chimpanzees on Tchindzoulou Island: 11 chimpanzees from Group Four in the east and the three females from Group Three in the west.
A few sections of the Tchindzoulou Island fence need improvements, especially in areas where the ground is lower as some of the chimpanzees know how to use tools to dig holes under the wires and tunnel through to the other side. When the dry season arrives, the JGI team will be able to use cement to make the necessary repairs.
Thirty-five chimpanzees from Group Three remain at the original Tchimpounga sanctuary site and are in urgent need of transfer. All of the chimpanzees in this group are adults or sub-adults, and they need more room to roam.
Ultimately, Tchibebe, another island in the Kouilou River, will become their new home. Tchibebe is a long, teardrop-shaped island that has more than enough space to accommodate these chimpanzees. But before the chimps can move, JGI must build a dormitory on the eastern end of the island.
There have been some construction delays on Tchibebe due to the rough terrain on the uninhabited island and the humidity of soil so close to the river. As soon as the cement and the soil are dry, the metal panels that make up the dormitory rooms will be put in place. The work should be complete in a few weeks.
Once again, Taronga Zoo has generously contributed the time and talent of Matt Green, the zoo’s technical advisor, to help during the process. Matt played a critical role in the construction on Tchindzoulou.
To complete the dormitory, JGI also has to engage a number of local workers who live in the villages near the islands. As a result, the construction process will help the local economy and, ultimately, the chimpanzees of Group Three.