We figured since it was almost completely finalized that we would discuss the plans for the future of Bonganzulu on the blog at long last.
As many of you already know, the five chimpanzees being kept here in the forest sanctuary enclave were originally confiscated with the intention of bringing them to Boyoma Sanctuary, currently in the midst of bursts of construction in Kisangani, DRC, about 500km south of where we are now.
Though original hopes had the opening date of Boyoma somewhere around late 2008, obviously it is not finished, and we were left wondering firstly how long the chimpanzees would need to stay here and secondly (though relatedly) how long we would have to stay here!
More pressing issues arose too, though. Chimpanzee infants are far more manageable that chimpanzee adolescents, or especially, chimpanzee adults. Chimpanzees get very strong very fast, and because it’s their nature to do so in the wild, they often use their teeth and sharp nails to play and often, to throw tantrums.
So you can see why and how they get dangerous quickly!
As chimpanzees get older, they typically need more secure housing -- for their safety as well as for the safety of their caregivers. Further veterinary checkups and enrichment are also important for the sustainability of chimpanzees in long-term sanctuary surroundings -- and these are things we simply cannot provide here in Aketi.
We love the freedom the chimps enjoy at the sanctuary here - they can spend most of the day unfettered, playing and feeding in the trees, but as they get older, it is simply irresponsible of us to keep them so fancy-free.
I spent LOTS of bandwidth and email time during the month of January arranging transportation and logistics of moving these chimpanzees to another Congolese sanctuary --
Lwiro Primate Rehabilitation Center, located in eastern Congo -- in the city of Bukavu.
I’m extremely familiar with Lwiro, because I was around when it was first being repaired and prepared in 2006. The chimpanzees I took care of in Goma, DRC would eventually make their way to Lwiro and they live there happily now.
Thank goodness I know people, and those people know even more people, because otherwise I’m not sure how I would have made it all happen. And for those who were wondering, it was indeed what I accomplished via email alone!
Moving chimpanzees to another city ~2500km away is no easy feat... not just for the arrangement of airplane transport, but for everything else involved!
We contacted a friend at ICCN (the agency that protects Congolese Conservation goals) and he is helping us arrange the proper transport paperwork. The last thing we need is some sort of document-error bureaucracy nightmare when we are trying to get the chimps out!
Since we need to clear the airfield before planes can land here, that costs money and we had to arrange with local grass-cutters as to their availability and price.
There is no way to make proper “cages” for transported chimps out here in the boonies, so we talked to the guy who makes wicker and bamboo basket-type cages to see if he could make something that would suffice.
And, because the airfield is across the river, we had to arrange with our friend Richard who has a large pierogi to make sure we could get across the river with the chimps when the time came.
Overall, it’s been a lot of work but the reward will be great -- I have extreme confidence in the facilities at Lwiro, and the staff. Especially since some of the staff were with me in Goma as well!
Most importantly, our five orphans here will be safe, long-term, and happily integrated with some 40 other chimpanzees.
We are also currently trying to help Lwiro fundraise for an additional chimpanzee enclosure and dormitory to accommodate the orphans that they graciously take in, who quite frankly have little other place to go.
As you may have noticed on the blog thus far, chimp orphans away from their families and the normalcy of the forest have precarious lives -- of the 37 orphans that Cleve, Adam and I have seen in under 2 years in this region alone, we’ve only managed to confiscate seven and have not even been able to save all of those chimpanzees.
Of the non-confiscated chimps, nearly all have already died.
So indeed, the situation is dire.
We will eventually put a direct button on the sidebar of the blog, but for the time being, if you ARE interested in donating -- even $20 or $50 would make a huge difference towards our goals -- please visit:
and click on the PayPal link on the top left.
I guess for once we are just happy to be able to share a happy story -- and perhaps you are too!