On October 10, 2012, this year’s seventh orphan arrived on Tchimpounga’s doorstep. Like Mambou, this young five-year-old male chimpanzee was suffering from a very serious medical condition. He also had terrible wounds on his left wrist and waist, had a fractured collarbone, and was missing several teeth in his upper jaw.
The young male chimpanzee was confiscated from a boat arriving at the Brazzaville Port on October 9 by authorities and officials from the local non-governmental organization PALF (Projet d'Appui à l'Application de la Loi Faunique), which is funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Aspinall Foundation. Naftali (“Naf”) Honig, a PALF project coordinator, was tipped off a few days before that a young chimpanzee would be on the boat.
Naf immediately called the team at Tchimpounga when he realized the young male was in very serious condition and needed immediate medical care. Herve Tchikaya, Tchimpounga’s most senior veterinary technician, was immediately sent by plane to Brazzaville. Even though every effort was made to expedite the paperwork to transfer the young chimp to Pointe Noire, unfortunately, all flights south were fully booked. As a result, Herve and the young chimp had to stay overnight in Brazzaville.
Herve administered emergency care and correctly diagnosed that the chimpanzee was suffering from tetanus. He rushed to a pharmacy to purchase the appropriate medical supplies to begin treatment. As soon as Herve and the chimpanzee arrived at Tchimpounga, the veterinary team and caregivers sprang into action. A guest bedroom was set up as a hospital ward. The young chimpanzee was convulsing from the effects of the disease, which can lead to death if not treated. The seizures were so bad that he could not even open his jaws or move his limbs.
During the first night, the team worked nonstop to stabilize the chimpanzee, giving him injectable sedatives. Early on October 11, the vets had to catheterize him to allow him to urinate. By that afternoon, the chimpanzee was making minor improvements: He became more alert and a little less tense, and was able to open his jaws and vocalize. Taking small amounts of fluids by the mouth was very painful for him, so the vets gave the chimpanzee intravenous fluids until he could swallow without trouble.
Tetanus is a fatal disease if left untreated with a survival rate of only 50 percent. The injury on the chimpanzee’s left wrist and his tetanus infection likely came from a snare. Because of this, the team decided to name him Motambo, which means snare in Lingala, the local language.
It took three weeks for the majority of Motambo’s wounds to heal. During that time, he gained a kilogram and began to eat by himself and take care of his bodily functions. Motambo still has to make progress before he is fully recovered and he must stay in quarantine. He may also have corrective surgery for his fractured collar bone, as this bone is essential for climbing and swinging from branches. Motambo is brave and strong and, most importantly, he is in safe hands now.