Over the last several years, the team at the Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center (TCRC) has taken great care to systematically search the wilds of the Republic of Congo (Congo) to locate the ideal habitat to safely release select TCRC primates.
After conducting and assessing surveys in several locations in western Congo, the JGI team decided to do a more focused survey in the northern portion of Conkouati- Douli National Park. In November 2012, the mandrill research team began a three-month survey consisting of 48 one-kilometer transects in the park.
The survey measured the large and medium mammals living there, habitat types, and human pressures in the area. After analyzing the survey data, the team selected two potential release sites, one to the north of the surveyed area and another further to the south.
In June of this year, Dr. Jane Goodall visited Tchimpounga. During her trip, she spent some time getting to know the mandrills scheduled for release, and I had the opportunity to review the site maps and project plans with her.
Ultimately, the release site to the north proved logistically impossible to reach by land and river, so the team decided to focus its attention on the site to the south. In early July, Dr. Rebeca Atencia, director of JGI-Congo and Tchimpounga’s lead veterinarian, and Debby Cox, JGI Africa’s technical advisor, took a final boat ride up the winding Ngongo River to give the “okay” to the site selected by Noel Kiyindou, the JGI project manager working on location.
For a two-week period later in the summer, the mandrill team worked tirelessly alongside two volunteers from JGI-Spain to erect the pre-release enclosure and keeper quarters. The volunteers included Laura Barrajon, a member of the JGI-Spain board of directors, and Eduard Esteban, chief carpenter.
The next steps are to perform the final health checks and to move the first group of mandrills out to the release site. We are so grateful for the help from JGI-Spain, as well as all of the other project partners and donors that have helped us get this far. Things are moving fast. The mandrills are going home soon! Stay tuned!
Contributed by Miles Woodruff.