In April 2012, the staff at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo welcomed a new arrival: a baby girl called Anzac. She was named Anzac because she came to the sanctuary on ANZAC Day (April 25, 2012), a World War I observance for people from Australia and New Zealand, and because, like many war veterans, she had lost an arm.
D’Joni (pronounced “Johnny”) plays all day long with his friends Lemba and Dunez. There is a very close friendship between the three youngsters. When Dunez tries to bully D’Joni, Lemba acts like a protective mother. D’Joni is well aware of this, so he often provokes Dunez with a push and then runs to Lemba for safety.
Since the 2008 pilot release of six Tchimpounga mandrills, the JGI team has been working hard to integrate eight more individuals to form another group to release into the wild. Madrills are rare primates found in only four African countries. Reintroducing any wild animal into the forest is a serious undertaking, but the process is somewhat easier with mandrills than with chimpanzees. The current plan is to reintroduce the next mandrill group in September.
Work is underway on the first of the three islands that will become the new long-term sanctuary site for the Tchimpounga chimpanzees.
This week, JeJe began wanting to eat solid foods. His stomach is ready for fruits and vegetables, so every day the caregivers at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga sanctuary offer him a broad selection of treats. They give him small bites little by little to see what he likes.
Over the past six months, Tchimpounga has received six more orphaned infants. As a result, each caregiver is taking care of three or more chimpanzees, which is overwhelming to say the least.
Lemba, a young chimpanzee whose legs are paralyzed from polio, acts as the adoptive mother. Unlike the caregivers who have 24-hour responsibilities, Lemba’s duties only require that she play with the babies and keep an eye on them during the day.
As our 4WD trudges along the last stretch of road into the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre, one hour north of Pointe Noire in the Republic of Congo (Congo), it is the sound of hooting chimpanzees that first announces our arrival. The centre is situated on a hilltop, overlooking a patchwork of forest and swampy plains, just a few kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean. As with most visitors to the sanctuary, it took me a couple of weeks to begin to understand the complexity and dedication required to care for and rehabilitate chimpanzees.