Tchindzoulou – Constructing an Island Sanctuary - Part 1 of 2

Monday, August 27, 2012 - 11:43am

This post is the first of a two-part story about the development of three islands in the Kouilou River as part of the expansion of JGI's Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo.

Forming the northern border of the Tchimpounga Nature Reserve, the large Kouilou River finishes its long 700-kilometer journey from the inland plateaus of Congo and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Close to the river mouth lie three large islands: 100 hectare Tchindzoulou; 40 hectare Ngombe; and 17 hectare Tchibebe. Since 2008, when the Tchimpounga Nature Reserve expansion was first proposed, the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) and Congolese authorities have been working together to incorporate these islands as part of the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center. These islands are part of the larger Tchimpounga Nature Reserve and are covered by dense lush forest. After the construction of some basic facilities, they will provide the ideal training ground for chimpanzees in the pre-release stage of rehabilitation or as a permanent habitat for those individuals who aren’t able to be released.

Tchindzoulou, the first island that will house the Tchimpounga chimpanzees, started development in July of this year. As part of a five-year collaboration between Taronga Zoo and the Jane Goodall Institute, Taronga Zoo’s construction manager, Matt Green, has traveled to Tchindzoulou for the construction stage of the project. Today, we travel there with Matt, and the building architect, Michelle van den Nieuwhof, to finalise details for the dormitory.

Our journey starts at the small port of Bas Kouilou, situated just a few hundred meters from the river mouth. We wait on the beach among scattered dug-out canoes and mounds of construction equipment: cement mix, bricks, sand, gravel and fence poles, all awaiting transportation to the islands. When our boat arrives, we load it with bags of sand and cement as we use every trip to the islands as a supply run. Once everything is packed, we jump in and set off up river.

The boat ride to the island drenches every one of your senses: the hum of the motor in the background; the feel of water spaying on your face as it hits the bow; the smell of salt air saturated with fish; and the sight of fishermen paddling their canoes on the water as fishing eagles fly overhead. Children from villages along the riverbank run to the water’s edge, waving to us as we drive by them. Along the way, Matt and Michelle discuss the materials available in Congo that can be used for the dormitory roofing.  After 30 minutes, we arrive at our destination, tying the boat to a tree on the river’s edge.  


Stay tuned for the next installment. 


For every "Chimpanzee" Blu-ray™ Combo Pack or HD Digital purchase made through August 27, 2012, Disneynature will donate to the Jane Goodall Institute through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to protect chimpanzees, including those residing at the Tchimpounga sanctuary. Learn more.


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