Republic of Congo
Work is underway on the first of the three islands that will become the new long-term sanctuary site for the Tchimpounga chimpanzees.
In late May, authorities confiscated an 18-month-old male named “Zola” in Imphondo, which is a town found in the north of Congo. Imphondo is located along the Ubangui River, which flows into the Congo.
Little Anzac, a recent arrival at Tchimpounga, is one of the many victims of the illegal commercial bushmeat trade. Congolese authorities confiscated her from a poacher before turning her over to the caregivers at the Jane Goodall Institute’s sanctuary.
In the mornings, Anzac loves to make grass angels, similar to the snow angels many human children make during the winter months. She lies on her back, flapping her arms about and enjoying the feel of the dew-covered ground.
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.
At the end of April, Tchimpounga staff members welcomed a new arrival: a baby girl named Anzac. She was named Anzac because she came to the sanctuary on ANZAC Day (April 25, 2012)*, and because, like many war veterans, she had lost an arm.
When she arrived, Anzac was so small that the vet team had to weigh her using a food scale. She weighed a mere 2.7 kilograms, making her one of the smallest chimps to arrive at the sanctuary.
Lemba likes to play with her caregivers' shoes. The caregivers at Tchimpounga are very patient and allow the small chimpanzee to nip, hit and hide their sandals.
Mbebo now lives in La Vieille's enclosure. La Vieille is the nearly 50-year-old female chimpanzee who acts as an adoptive mother to many o f Tchimpounga’s young chimpanzees. In the enclosure, Mbebo plays with Leki, Makasi, Alex, Ollombo, Mbebo and Mambou.
Throughout the day, the chimps run and jump without stopping. On many occasions, they play around La Vieille. The only time La Vieille can get some rest is during lunchtime when the little chimps sit quietly and eat.
Mambou is growing quickly. Nothing remains of the tiny, exhausted, disoriented baby chimpanzee who arrived at Tchimpounga some time ago. Thanks to the Jane Goodall Institute, particularly Tchimpounga’s caregivers, Mambou is now a strong and energetic chimpanzee. He plays and laughs with his friends all day long. No one can beat Mambou in his games. Even Makasi, the chimp group leader, is exhausted after playing with Mambou.