Kauka may be one of the most social chimps of Tchimpounga’s Rehabilitation Centre. Ever since he was a baby he has had an innate ability to get along with all the other chimps in his group. Although he sometimes suffers blows from his peers Kauka takes no action against them. For these reasons the vet team has chosen Kauka to help through difficult situations, when a chimp has to be isolated in the dormitories for days due to illnesses. These are difficult moments for the chimps because they see all their friends go out to the exterior installation and they have to remain inside to be treated. The keepers from Tchimpounga try to make these days easier for the chimp and let Kauka spend time with the sick chimps. These chimps feel better and more comfortable with Kauka present. He caresses the sick chimps, hugs and plays with them when they are more recovered. When his job is done he is rewarded with a slice of watermelon or a bunch of bananas, two of his favorite foods. Kauka continues to grow and his body is larger and bigger, as big as his good heart.
Pointe Noire is situated some forty kilometres from Tchimpounga. An unexplained Polio epidemic has arose in Pointe Noire. JGI decided to take precautionary measures to avoid the contamination of the chimps with this terrible disease. The keepers and vet team started using gloves and masks. The chimpanzees couldn’t understand very well why these people were dressed up in this strange way. Kudia found all this as a motive for play. Kudia has spent the last weeks trying to steal Brice’s (her caretaker) gloves without succeeding. Chimps as well as people are attracted by bright colors, like orange or red. Brice has to be very patient with Kudia and never take his gloves off. However, Kudia took advantage of a moment when Brice took his gloves off to wash his hands. Immediately a party ensued, Kuaka, Ulengue, Manisa , Luc and the rest of the friends climbed a tree with their prize and stayed there for hours. They looked down at Brice who was begging them to return his gloves back. It wasn’t until 5:30 pm when the chimps descended to go into their dormitories for the night that they dropped the gloves to the ground.
Great Story of New Friends
Makasi, Laki and Mbebo are the last chimpanzees that arrived at Tchimpounga after being seized by the Congolese Ministry of Water and Forests. The three chimps stay together day after day playing carelessly beside their guardian Godelin. This is an image and story that usually repeats itself in Tchimpounga. However, some weeks ago something surprising happened; the Center of Tchimpounga director’s dog, a young German shepherd, some five months old, guided by curiosity approached this group of chimps for the first time. Normally chimps at this age are fearful of any new things that appear in their environment, but on this occasion Makasi took the initiative of lunging herself on Lobo and started playing with him. Lobo reacted immediately and started pursuing and rolling on the ground with Makasi, while Leki and Mbebo shyly observed them. Makasi grabbed Lobo by the neck and made him fall on his side meanwhile Lobo moved his legs trying to defend himself. This was the first day of a great friendship. Since that day we are all used to see Makasi and Lobo’s persecutions in the bushes of the Tchimpounga garden.
Tchimpounga’s Natural Reserve is the smallest protected zone of Congo. The great biodiversity that hides within its forests including the large number of chimpanzee’s communities has promoted the idea of extending the limits of this Reserve. In the next weeks an agreement with the Congolese Government will be closed so that the new area includes zones of forests and marshes rich in flora and fauna. When these limits are finalized the new area of the Reserve will be of approximately 55.260 acres. This will be a great advance in the protection of chimps and their ecosystems.
Kudia, Kauka and Luc
These last weeks have not been easy for the chimps of Group 4 where Kudia, Kauka and Luc live. Like every day, the caretakers of the group opened the exterior installation gate and all the chimps Kudia included went out excited and happy to spend their day in a nearby forest. They all walked a long distance through the savannah before reaching the forest. Adolphe and Brice were the caretakers that accompanied this group. Kudia, like usual, was not the first in line or the last, she prefers walking in the middle of the group protected by her peers.
Reaching the edge of the forest Brice observed surprised the figure of a large chimp male emerging. First they thought it was an escapee from the Tchimpounga Centre. This worried him. Adolphe tried to find out who it was but didn’t recognize him. Behind this large male three more appeared, they were heavy set adult males. The chimps from the group started reacting fearfully when the large males approached them. Some chimps from the group ran without direction and hid in the forest, others stayed hugging each other beside the caretakers. Adolphe and Brice started calling the chimps back and tried to return quickly to the Centre. . Kauka couldn’t even run because he was so scared. His hair stood up on end and his small hands were clinging strongly to Brice’s shirt. Kudia was clinging to Brice as well. The adult males were not from the Centre, they were wild chimps that were ambushing the chimps in Group 4. One of the chimps that ran to hide in the forest was Kozanza, who was trapped and killed by these male chimps.
After a huge effort they all arrived to the exterior Installation. Everyone knew that something bad had happened. They haven’t gone out to the woods since then.
Sometimes the fruit from the markets in the villages surrounding the sanctuary is not enough to feed Tchimpounga’s chimps. That’s why it is occasionally necessary to travel to the area of Mayombe to buy huge quantities of particular fruits, for example, pineapples. The quality of the soil in this area and warm temperatures are suitable to produce high quality pineapples and bananas. The journey is long, but the quality, freshness and price of the fruit is worth it. Once the fruit is bought, the van is completely filled to make the effort as profitable as possible. The chimps in Tchimpounga jump with excitement and joy, when they see the van arriving with the delicious cargo of sweet and tasty fruit.
New enclosures/new integrations
A little enclosure in front of the central building in Tchimpounga has been rebuilt. The fence has been replaced by a higher and more effective one, and it has been enriched with some platforms where the chimps can lie down in the shade and take shelter from the rain. The enclosure will be used by La Vieille, the 45-year-old female who accompanied Gregoire until his death on 17th December 2008 at the age of 66. La Vieille will enjoy this new enclosure along with some new friends. A group of five very young chimps will share the enclosure with her, solving the problem of loneliness that La Vieille has suffered since losing her dear friend Gregoire. La Vieille’s good character and playful attitude with the little chimps will turn this new group into one of the funniest at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center.
Kudia and her friends in Group 4 could finally enjoy a walk into the forest for the first time in a long while. The wild chimpanzees, who had stationed themselves around Tchimpounga in recent months, have moved away, so Rebeca decided to take Kudia and her friends to spend the day in a small forest just a mile away. Kudia and her mates enjoyed the outing immensely. Being the rainy season, everything was wet and green, and the chimps enjoyed playing in the vegetation. By midmorning the caretakers brought food by car to the chimps. All this extra exercise opened the appetite of these primates and they devoured all the food in an instant, especially Kudia, already known in Tchimpounga for her massive appetite.
This month Kauka has looked so sad because he is fighting the flu. This is the reason why he has been without energy and has not wanted to mix with the other chimps. This intense flu has affected Kauka´s group and made half of the group spend the days coughing with runny noses. When the flu hits a Group, it’s very difficult to control; it’s very similar to what happens in a school when some kids have the flu and the rest of them end up catching it. In Tchimpounga there are more than 140 chimps living closely together, when the flu or other contagious illness appears, the vet team has to act very fast to avoid a sanctuary-wide infection. This tends to be very difficult because chimps tend to touch each other a lot, which makes the infections spread quickly. As soon as Kauka started coughing, he was treated with medicines so he started to recuperate quite right away.
During these months Luc has spent a lot of time with the other chimps in his Group and has strengthened friendships with many of them; for this reason he is more accepted in the group.
The improvements don’t stop there, when Luc arrived in the forest with the other chimps in Group 4 on their day out, he went for a walk far away from the caretakers. This is a good sign because it means that Luc is more comfortable with the other chimps and he dares to go farther away from the caretakers without looking for human protection.
On another positive side, Luc has escaped from the flu that is infecting his group; this means that his immune defences are very high. Things are looking up for this promising young chimp everyday!