Rescuing Orphaned Chimpanzees

Sanctuary chimpanzee pictured. JGI does not endorse approaching or handling wild chimpanzees.

To protect chimpanzees from extinction we must address the root causes of numerous threats, including habitat loss, the illegal bushmeat and exotic pet trades, armed conflict, and infectious disease. But we also face an immediate crisis -- the continual growth in the number of “bushmeat orphans.” Commercial bushmeat hunters kill many chimpanzees every year. Infants, too small to be killed for meat, are often put on the black market for sale as pets or entertainers.

We work on a number of fronts to help the young victims of the illegal commercial bushmeat trade:

  • Rescue: Working with African governments, JGI ensures that illegally held chimpanzees are confiscated from poachers or market vendors and placed in sanctuaries across Africa.
  • Sanctuary: JGI operates the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in Africa -- the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in one of the Congo Basin regions where the commercial bushmeat trade is having the greatest impact on endangered species like chimpanzees. It provides a refuge where chimpanzees are cared for and given the chance to live full lives in spacious conditions. Tchimpounga is in the heart of the Congo Basin’s illegal commercial bushmeat corridor.
  • Rehabilitation: Our comprehensive conservation strategy includes an ambitious goal: introducing orphaned chimps back into the wild. A generous grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is helping JGI staff to conduct a biodiversity survey and other assessments to find a site suitable for chimpanzee reintroduction into the wild. For Jane Goodall, a successful reintroduction program would be a dream come true.
  • Community Development and Education: Tchimpounga also provides tangible benefits to surrounding communities by supporting local development projects such as the construction of wells for clean drinking water, employing local people as staff, and buying all the fruits and vegetables needed to feed the chimps from local markets. Tchimpounga staff members also conduct public awareness workshops and other events to raise awareness about the problem of bushmeat and the value of biodiversity.

Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center
(Sanctuary chimpanzee pictures. JGI does not endorse handling or approaching wild chimpanzees.)Chimps orphaned by hunters’ bullets and snares are traumatized. Not only have they been removed from their forest homes, most have witnessed the killings of their mothers and other family members. The health of these orphaned chimpanzees quickly declines. Some will die.

For Jane, abandoning these chimpanzees was never an option. “How could I turn my back on their outstretched hands, their pleading eyes and the orphans’ pathetic, malnourished bodies?” she says. Many people discouraged Jane from even contemplating saving these abandoned chimpanzees. To take care of the youngsters would be a large undertaking, since in all likelihood the animals would need to be cared for their entire lives – an estimated 50-60 years.

But in 1992, at Jane Goodall’s behest, the Conoco oil company built the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center – one of the first safe havens for victims of the bushmeat trade. The opening of this center meant many orphaned chimpanzees would be given a second chance at happier lives.

Tchimpounga is situated on a coastal plain of savannah and galleried mosaic forest patches. It is located within the Tchimpounga Nature Reserve, 31 miles (50km) north of the city of Pointe Noire in the Republic of the Congo’s Kouilou region. Its mission includes chimpanzee protection, education, ecotourism and involvement of local populations in sustainable development. There are more than 140 chimpanzees there today, living in six age-graded groups that have access to several large outdoor forest enclosures.

One of the Sanctuary’s most famous residents, a gentle old chimp named Gregoire, was something of a Congolese national hero. When he died in his sleep in 2008, hundreds of people wrote Jane online to express their condolences and sorrow at Gregoire’s passing.

Getting Involved: Become a Chimp Guardian!

Read about Gregoire.

 

 

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