Sunday, January 18, 2009

To Save A Life

I entitled today's entry “To Save A Life” because of the events of today. Earlier today, a hunter came to our house and brought an orphan chimpanzee to the door. The orphan was kept in a small basket to hold a chicken. When Laura looked in the basket at first, she thought the chimp was dead. Thankfully, he was alive but, barely. We took him out of the basket and started to take care of him. We gave him water, milk, a bath and some TLC. Also, one of our caregivers from the sanctuary was here to help us. Laura and I were furious at the hunters. One of our employees is friends with the administer of the environment here in Aketi.

He came with one of his agents and accessed the situation. He then brought two police officers with him and had the hunters arrested for illegally hunting chimpanzees. The orphan was living in a small basket for five days with no food or water. I hope it teaches them a lesson that hunting chimpanzees is wrong, dangerous and illegal in Congo.

Through out the day, Laura and I took care of him and watched his condition. The scariest moment I had was when I was holding him to feed him. I saw his right pupil constantly dilate and contract in rapid succession. I was afraid that he wasn't going to make it.

The two hunters thought they could kill a chimpanzee mother, eat it and sell its orphan baby to some white people for some money, boy were they wrong. By the way, we did not pay for this chimpanzee, we confiscated him.

Now we have another chimpanzee that we need to take care of. This means I am going to be a surrogate father again. Right now though, we hope that he will live. He has made some progress today with moving his limbs and drinking powdered milk, which is the only available milk here. However, he is not out of the woods yet. We are keeping him in the house, not as a pet but, as caregivers until we know he is healthy enough for the sanctuary and can join the other chimpanzees.

Now I hope we can pull this chimpanzee through. By the way, we want to name him Cleveland, after our friend and colleague.


june said...

Hi Laura and Adam,

I am surprised that you are able to confiscate chimps quite easily - don't the locals get upset and demand some compensation? Or threats of any kind? I am from Malaysia and have been working in the conservation line for about 8 years and it's difficult to confiscate wildlife of any kind. Even the park officials can be intimidated by the people who keep them. I admire your work in Congo - keep up the good work!

Laura Darby said...

Luckily, the law is on our side -- sure, they demand money but we never ever give them any.

And, because they are against the law even HAVING a chimp or having killed its mother, they don't have much leverage to get huffy or upset.

Most of the time even if the law isn't involved, we can convince people to give up the chimpanzee orphan just by mentioning that it IS against the law.

As you see, the guys from this past encounter got arrested and fined 15,000 francs (~$30) ... a HUGE amount when the standard daily wage here is less than $1.

We've also made good friends with the minister of the environment here, which has been a real boon to the cause. He's very sympathetic to the plight of chimpanzees in Congo and has worked hard to support us.

Bravo for being a fellow conservationist! There can never be too many of us :)

june said...

That's the thing - the law is also on our side but it's not easy to confiscate wildlife, unless you are authorized to do so - i.e. park wardens, etc. But even then, they dare not make a big deal about it because of repercussions from the community that they live with. I think in your case, the village has a lot of respect for foreigners, as well with the law. I really can't see the same thing happening here! Best of luck with your work - so sorry to read about the chimp that died.