Young Anzac sleeps with her friends Willy, Sam and Zola. Since it's now the dry season in the Republic of Congo, overcast days and cool nights are made even cooler by the offshore winds that arrive in the dry season. Zola and Anzac hug each other for warmth. Their mothers are gone, and so the orphans have to help each other. Others, like Sam and Willy, prefer to make a nest with dry and soft grass that caregivers put in the bedroom. During the winter months, staff provides extra bedding to the younger and older chimpanzees, giving them blankets or towels to use in their nest to help retain more warmth.
In the morning Anzac and her companions go outside into the enclosure. They play a little while caretakers are busy preparing bottles of warm milk for them. The sun begins to rise on the horizon and the freshness of the morning changes the cold morning into a balmy day.
Every year, when temperatures drop, many chimps become vulnerable to flu viruses that abound in the human communities. Caregivers and the veterinary team conduct thorough monitoring of each chimpanzee, especially smaller ones like Anzac This year she has not yet been sick, although some of her companions have. The veterinary team administers most of their medicines orally, using a large plastic syringe to offer medicine directly into the mouth of each sick individual. Anzac managed to “steal” one from the vet team as they were giving Sam his medicine. Anzac is very fast and no one was able to recover the syringe from her. For Anzac, this syringe is a perfect toy to play with. She has great imagination, using it like a cup, as she refills the syringe barrel with water from their water fountain. This process is quite challenging, as Anzac has to put just enough pressure on the fountain to ensure it dribbles into the syringe, rather than spurts her in the face. She also has to block the end of the syringe, so she does not lose the water. She does this all with just one arm, as her left arm was amputated before she arrived to the sanctuary. Staff suspect that she may have either lost her arm in a snare or from a bullet wound during the killing of her mother.
Yet, even with this disability, she proves extremely skillful in the use of the syringe as a water vessel. The other, younger chimps come to watch, to beg for a sip from her novel “cup.” But she pays them no heed; instead she remains focused on her new favorite toy. Even when the caregivers take the younger chimpanzees to the forest with group four, Anzac hides her new toy in her mouth. She was so attentive of her new toy that, even the next day, staff could see her still playing with it.
Tabonga is one of the most recognizable chimpanzees being cared for at JGI’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo. This is because Tabonga, due to a hormonal disorder, lacks the hair chimps usually have all over their body. Tabonga’s nickname amongst Tchimpounga’s staff members is “Cousin”, due to his body being nearly hairless and the fact that he has a voice more resembling that of a human than most chimpanzees at Tchimpounga.
But not only is Tabonga an interesting looking fellow, he is also incredibly intelligent. This intelligence combined with Tabonga’s bold and mischievous personality can sometimes be a challenge for Tchimpounga’s staff! Always testing the limits, Tabonga loved to out-smart the fences of his enclosure. However, even when he would find a way to escape, he was easily convinced with some fruit to return home.
Sadly, during one of these escape attempts, Tabonga broke his leg. He was patched up by Tchimpounga’s veterinary staff and is now fully recovered. However, it was clear that Tabonga needed more space to explore.
Last month, Tabonga got his wish! He was moved to Tchindzoulou Island, one of three islands that are now expanded sanctuary sites at Tchimpounga. He was integrated with the other chimpanzees already living there, and now has access to explore and discover the lush forests of the island. Tchimpounga’s staff members are happy to report that Tabonga seems very happy in his new home, where he takes long walks through the forest with his friends, plays in the thick vegetation, and snuggles up in his own nest in the treetops at night.
Like humans, chimpanzees are incredibly social animals who form strong friendships that can last a lifetime. The chimpanzees living at the Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) Tchimpounga sanctuary are no exception, especially two young chimpanzees named Mambou and Alex.
Mambou is a popular, extroverted chimpanzee who gets along with all of the other chimps in his group. Mambou doesn’t seem interested in being the alpha-male even though he is one of the strongest of his group, but he does use his physical power to protect his friends … friends like his best buddy, Alex.
Alex is a boisterous little chimpanzee who tends to get himself into trouble with the other chimpanzees in his group, for example when he bites them out of frustration when they won’t play with him. When Alex bites the wrong chimp and is on the receiving end of some rough-housing, he cries out for help. Who comes to his rescue? Mambou, of course!
Not only does Mambou look out for Alex, he is also a big pushover when it comes to his best friend. Every morning, JGI caregivers give the chimpanzees their morning snack of delicious fruits like mangos and bananas. A bit greedy, Alex will gobble up his share and then run to Mambou, whining and showing Mambou the palm of his hand. Mambou will then break the fruit he is holding in half and give one half to Alex … displaying generosity not often seen in hungry chimpanzees!