Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center
It is currently the dry session in Congo. At this time of year the sky is almost always overcast and the temperature, especially at night, drops. The added humidity makes the nights unpleasant. Young chimpanzees such as JeJe, are still very small and dependent. For him, it is absolutely necessary to be embraced by a warm body and to hear a heartbeat. Therefore at Tchimpounga, chimpanzee orphans of this age are never alone and always spend the night with a caregiver. While these baby chimpanzees sleep, they sometimes have nightmares, gas in their belly, feel cold or appear restless.
D’Joni is growing rapidly. His arms and legs are now strong and robust, allowing him to feel more confident and secure, which will help him become independent. D’Joni is no longer a baby, but he still really likes bottles of milk each day. Early each morning, Tchimpounga caregivers heat the milk in a saucepan so the younger chimpanzees at the sanctuary can wake up to a comforting breakfast. Although the caregivers hold the milk bottles for the small chimpanzees, D’Joni prefers to hold the bottle himself to show that he is self-sufficient and very grown up.
It was Saturday night in Tchimpounga. Zola was sleeping with his caregiver, Antonette because the small babies cannot spend the night alone without their adoptive mother. Suddenly Antonette became concerned about the way Zola was breathing. She called out with a worried voice at three in the morning to alert the veterinary team. It was an urgent case. Enough air wasn´t reaching Zola´s lungs and his nose was congested with mucus. The veterinary staff quickly put an oxygen mask onto his face. The night was very long and tiring for everyone.
During the last few weeks, the bond between Dunez and Wounda has grown increasingly strong and the two of them now behave like mother and daughter. If Wounda climbs a tree, picks flowers from a bush or decides to rest in the shade, Dunez is always a step behind her. It was Dunez’s love of the trees that prompted Wounda to climb again after a serious illness.
At Tchimpounga, the staff do their best to care for the more than 150 chimpanzees living at the Jane Goodall Institute sanctuary. Ongoing veterinary attention and constant assessments of their diet ensure that all the chimps are in good condition.
Anzac is progressing very well at Tchimpounga. She is growing and eating lots of fruits and vegetables in addition to her bottles of milk. With the love, care and support of Chantal, her primary caregiver, Anzac is developing into a very outgoing and adventurous little chimpanzee. She’s not hindered by her missing limb and comes up with novel solutions for every situation that arises. And she loves to make up games!
Alex, Leki, Mbebo, Mambou and Makassi share an enclosure at Tchimpounga with the nearly 50-year-old female chimpanzee, La Vieille. The youngsters are all under four years of age, so they are too young to be completely independent. La Vieille has taken on the role of their adoptive mother and her guidance is very important for the little ones. Likewise, the small chimpanzees are important to La Vieille. They keep her on her toes, ensuring that her mind stays active while she spends the day watching out for them and keeping them in line.
Just like with people, you can gain insight into a chimpanzee’s mood or intentions by looking into his or her eyes. Lemba´s eyes are tender, warm and a little sad. This young chimpanzee’s face reflects the many tragedies she’s endured during her short life. First, she lost her mother who was shot by a poacher. Then, after coming to Tchimpounga, she contracted polio during a regional outbreak. As a result, her legs are paralyzed. Needless to say, these two events deeply impacted this charismatic chimpanzee.
Dunez’s companions, Lemba, D’Joni and Wounda, spend hours playing and laughing. Of the three, Dunez is the best at moving through the trees. D’Joni tries to follow her, but he is not as coordinated, so he doesn’t move as quickly. Dunez is probably more skilled because she arrived at Tchimpounga at age three. As a result, she likely spent more time in the forest with her mother. Dunez constantly amazes the Tchimpounga caregivers with her enormous jumps.
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.