Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center
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.
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.
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.
Each morning, Wounda receives a liter of milk. This is just one of several treatments she receives due to a recent illness. Young Lemba watches in anticipation until the caregivers produce a bottle for her. For Lemba, milk is a special treat, so the mornings are her favorite part of 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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Disneynature and the Jane Goodall Institute Announce Conservation Program Impact
See CHIMPANZEE, Saving Chimpanzees
Program Will Protect 129,236 Acres of Habitat, Educate 60,000 Schoolchildren about Chimpanzee Conservation, and Care for Orphaned Chimpanzees