Sunday, December 14, 2008

Aketi's First Trip to the Sanctuary

Aketi’s quarantine period was officially over as of the 11th, but it was important just to check him for a few additional days after his bout with amoebas.

Plus, it gave us a chance to take his integration into the Aketi Five Community a little slowly -- in fact, yesterday, before his official “move” date, I thought it would behoove me to bring him over to the sanctuary to get to know his new “brothers and sisters”.

I wanted his final integration day to perhaps be a little less new and scary, and additionally, it gave me a chance to go to the sanctuary again. Since Aketi came to the house, it really wasn’t wise for me to go, since i interact with Aketi so often and he’s in “quarantine,” so going to the sanctuary would really defeat the purpose.

Taking Aketi to the sanctuary was going to be no easy task, since he’d be coming with me, and the last thing I wanted was for the whole village to see a white lady parading around with a chimpanzee. Next thing you know, they’ll be the biggest rage! (as if they aren’t already in the US, according to the Google hits I get on the blog)

So, we decided to go on the moto with Seba, and I wore one of Adam’s sweatshirts and zipped Aketi up into the inside of it, with me! He didn’t struggle as i thought he might. Instead, he just pressed in close to me and went to sleep!

I don’t know whether the village noticed him inside the sweatshirt, or thought that I was hugely fat(ter) or megaboobalicious, but no one said anything. Except, of course, “MONDELE! MONDELE!” (the Lingala for “whitey”)

Once at the sanctuary, we drove right up to past the second barricade and the three chimps - Kathé, Bolungwa, and Django Mayanga all ran out, wondering what was going on!

Man, they seemed HUGE by comparison to little Aketi, when just a month ago they had seemed so small! Kathé especially just seemed monstrously huge, and was already upset that I wasn’t paying her the proper amount of attention upon arrival, whereupon she bit me hard on the middle right finger.

The irony does not escape me, with Kathé, that I could lose a finger to a chimpanzee who does not even have any of her top teeth!

The chimps were all SO curious to see what was under my sweatshirt, and Aketi seemed relatively nonplussed. I did also see Mangé there, and, while he’s not really socializing a lot with the others, he did seem more mellow.

I sat at the bench and let things just unwind slowly. Bolungwa, usually shy and hesitant about coming over, came right over and stared me in the face, looking at me and then at my zipper expectantly until I unzipped completely to reveal little Aketi!

Django was once again jealous (like he had been with Mangé) and attempted the coward’s revenge: smacking Aketi and then fleeing and hiding.

Kathé was much more interested in playing with me, and then, when I seemed more willing to groom her, to have me continue grooming her.

Aketi remained by my side, with Bolungwa to our left and Kathé to our right.

Eventually without being forced, Aketi came down to the ground and started playing with Bolungwa. She seemed to enjoy his company already, and he had been looking for someone to play with while in quarantine, so it seemed a perfect match.

And of course, for the bleeding heart of anthropomorphizing and empathizing and cooing like 30-something women at new babies, they hugged each other so tight, and when Aketi finally broke the embrace, Bolungwa made sad little cooing noises until he returned and they started to hug again!

It did become a bit of a miscommunication, as Bolungwa wanted to just hug all day and Aketi was keen on playing, but they would find suitable compromises, running around after one another in endless loops and circles, and ending the bout with a hug.

Of course, being the littlest of a group of five doesn’t always mean hugging and playing and cuteness.

Bolungwa, convinced of the depth of their friendship, naturally assumed that Aketi would share his banana with her. When a squabble broke out, breaking the banana in half and sending them on another running-playing-hugging cycle, Kathé surreptitiously wandered over and collected both banana halves and ate them up as quickly as she possibly could.

After about 4 hours, Aketi seemed utterly tired and things at the sanctuary were winding down. Additionally, I knew my mother would be calling soon and the danger of pulling anything out at the sanctuary is that some chimp there will steal it!
Even so, Kathé managed to snatch money from inside my pocket, and it was only because I surprised her catching on so quickly that I managed to wrestle it back out of her greedy hands!

We returned back to the house, once again hiding Aketi inside the sweatshirt until finally we arrived home to find him contentedly sleeping inside the sweatshirt against me.


When he finally woke up, seeing Aketi by himself, playing in the house seemed strange. It seemed so natural to watch him frolicking around with the others, and so unnatural to watch him find entertainment in climbing the porch gate or playing with the motorcycles on the patio.

I had hoped ot make today his second visit and try to get him to spend the night there tonight, but I’m no longer sure about leaving the house today for so long now that Adam is so sick.

But it certainly is tough, watching him alone while Adam is incapacitated!

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