I recently returned from visiting the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre (CCC) in Guinea, North West Africa.
The main reason for my visit was to check in with the team and see how the OAT funded camp upgrade works are getting along. The biggest element of work is the new life-time care enclosure currently being constructed for 5 adult chimps that will never be released back into the wild. These chimps are far too humanised due to their previous lives in captivity and simply don’t have the skills to survive in the wild. They were stolen from their mothers at a very young age and were therefore never taught the basic skills. One is not supposed to have favourites, but I do, and his name is Coco. You may remember me mentioning him in my previous CCC blog last year.
As a baby, Coco had a terrible start in life where he was tied to a hotel reception desk and forced to smoke and drink beer to entertain hotel guests. When he got bigger he became too dangerous for this job and was tied to a tree in the hotel garden until one day he escaped and was then shot 7 times in the back by the police. Fortunately, he didn’t die and was rescued by the CCC which is where he has been living for the last 18 years. Coco who is the oldest chimp at CCC at 37 years old, is affectionately cared for by the CCC team. His nickname is ‘The President’. The new enclosure will be a lifetime care enclosure for Coco and the 4 other adult chimps. These 5 chimps are currently being held in cages as all of them over the years have become escape artists and are therefore too dangerous to leave in the current ageing enclosures. All 5 of these chimps will hopefully be integrated successfully and retire together in this semi-wild enclosure away from human beings. They will obviously be fed daily and will have free access to lots of trees and water. I can’t wait for the day I see all 5 of them (especially The President) living in their new enclosure and sleeping in the trees where they belong. We are hoping the new enclosure will be ready in September this year………..watch this space.
It was great to spend time with some of the younger chimps too, including Dave, one of the original rescues that we provided quarantine facilities for when we first got involved with CCC. 👍
The second reason for my recent trip to Guinea was to help some baboons and Patas monkeys that are currently being ‘cared for’ by National Park guards. They were all being held illegally by people in their gardens in the nearest town of Faranah, which is the closest town to the National Park. National Park staff confiscated these primates and brought them back to the entrance of the park which is where they are currently being held in unsatisfactory conditions. They are all tied to trees with ropes around their waists. The Haut Niger National Park manager, who is quite obviously an animal lover, asked CCC for help as he has no knowledge of primates and how best to release them to give them the best chance of survival in the wild.
On my last visit CCC asked for my help which led me to contact Dr Cheryl Mvula of the Zambia Primate Project. Cheryl has been running ZPP for the last 15 years and to-date has overseen the successful release of over 600 primates back to the wild. The project manager on the ground for ZPP in Zambia is Cosmas Mumba. You may remember Cosmas coming to the UK 2 years ago when he was nominated for a Tusk Trust award and met HRH Prince William.
I asked Cheryl (ZPP) to accompany me to Guinea to assess the situation on the ground with these tied up primates and advise on how best they should be released. I am happy to say that Cheryl has now put a plan together which is currently awaiting approval from the parks manager. If it comes together, which I am confident it will, it won’t be too long before these primates are released and are free to live out their lives in their natural habitat.
Sadly a 15 year old chimp named Rambo, pictured below, passed away very suddenly last week. Only 2 weeks ago I was with Rambo feeding him Marks & Spencer nuts which he loved and he seemed then to be a really happy chimp. He was rescued just over a year ago from an illegal zoo which was also a holding facility for all sorts of animals waiting to be trafficked out of Africa and into China and the Middle East, where there is a massive demand for all sorts of exotic animals. May you RIP Rambo 😢. Animals just like Rambo are suffering due to human demand to own them as pets and see them in zoos and circuses. Please can I ask you to think really hard about Rambo and all exotic animals the next time you consider visiting a zoo. They are jails for animals and there’s no other way of putting it!
HOT OFF THE PRESS!
I was just about to publish this blog when we received word from CCC to say that a new rescue / confiscation is on the way to them. Don’t know the full background as yet but will keep you posted. Such a tiny baby…breaks my heart to think he was taken from his family at all, but even worse at such a young and vulnerable age 😢 Still, he is in the best possible hands now. See pics below: