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 The fence has been replaced by a higher and more effective one, and it has been enriched with some platforms where the chimps can lie down in the shade and take shelter from the rain.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!
Are there any funny / interesting stories from the last month?
In the outdoor enclosure of Group 4 there are several wooden structures that were built for the chimpanzees to enjoy moving at different levels and getting shade. However, some individuals of this group do not seem to understand this advantage and devote great efforts to destroying them with their growing strength. The structures are made of eucalyptus trees, which some chimpanzees take apart by using other pieces of wood as levers.
Are there any new integrations or additions to the groups?
Mosengo, Kouilou, Sangha and Betou, the four chimpanzees that were transferred to Tchimpounga from the Brazzaville zoo, have finished the first part of their long process of adaptation to their new home, after spending a quarantine longer than expected due to health issues. This month finally came the time to introduce them into chimp society, and they were integrated into Group 4, where there are other ChimpGuardian chimps such as Kauka, Luc and Kudia. Although these moments are always tense and the newcomers receive shoves and punches from the hosts, everything went relatively smoothly thanks to the protection of the caregivers and some older females in the group.
Are there any “Fun Facts” that you would like to share?
The chimpanzee rehabilitation centre is in the middle of a Natural Reserve of the same name: Tchimpounga. This protected area is the smallest one in the Republic of Congo, with some seven thousand hectares. However, it is of great interest in terms of its flora and fauna. Its ecosystem is made up of a mosaic of savannahs and thick forests, where many animal species live, like civets, jackals, monkeys, antelopes, snakes, chimpanzees and a wide variety of birds and insects. Much of the Tchimpounga Reserve can be seen from the chimpanzee rehabilitation centre, as it is located on a hill above the savannah. This area is protected by 16 ecoguards funded by the Jane Goodall Institute.
Specific Chimp Updates:
This month Kudia welcomed into her group four young chimpanzees: Kouilou, Mosengo, Sangha and Betou. These four brave individuals have been strongly united since they were in Brazzaville zoo together and were then transferred to Tchimpounga. This bond has served to help them in their integration into the new group, as they acted as a team to defend themselves against all the blows, pushes and bites from the larger hosts. As always with this type of integration, many chimpanzees seemed reluctant to accept the new arrivals, so their caregivers tried to keep the atmosphere calm by sharing out food, distracting the attention of the original group members and preventing them from concentrating just on beating up the new arrivals. This is where Kudia comes into the story. As you already know, Kudia is a chimpanzee with a voracious appetite; this is how she got her name, Kudia, which means “eat” in the local language Munukutuba. When the carers started to share out fruit and popcorn, Kudia completely forgot about Kouilou, Mosengo, Sangha and Betou, and concentrated on eating as much popcorn as possible. Some animals hit the newcomers to reaffirm their place in the hierarchy, but Kudia carried on eating like crazy. The caregivers laughed when they saw her eating the popcorn so fast that it hardly fit in her mouth. At one point she was choking, and when she coughed, all the popcorn flew out. Kudia rushed to pick them up again, at the same speed as usual when food is concerned.
Kudia continues to prefer playing with Kauka, although she interacts with practically all the chimpanzees in her group without problems.
This month Kauka got very angry with Likabou, a juvenile female of his group who is bigger than the infant ones. Likabou took advantage of her strength and in a fight for a banana she got very angry with Simba, a small female who is Kauka´s friend. Likabou´s aggression caused a serious injury in one of Simba´s eyelids, which produced bleeding and severe swelling. Simba has been living with Kauka since she was very young and they are good friends. Kauka got very angry with Likabou and, even though he is much smaller than her, he pushed her twice and gave her a few kicks. Likabou turned against Kauka ready to fight back, but Kauka´s shouting made other bigger friends came to help. Finally a big fight broke out between Likabou´s friends and Kauka´s. Little Singa was bleeding and screaming in agony. This alerted Tchimpounga´s caretakers who ran immediately to see what was happening. They entered in the enclosure very quickly and separated Simba from the rest of the group, which eased the tensions and all the chimps eventually calmed down. In this situation Kauka had shown his great courage and his capacity to protect his friends.
Luc lives in the same group as Kauka and Kudia. This month the news is Sangha, Kouilou, Mosengo and Betou´s integration into Luc´s group. All the chimps were very excited and ran to meet the new arrivals. On the other side, alone as usual, was Luc, observing how the other chimps behave with the new ones. Luc is an observer of life. He doesn’t want to get into trouble and he doesn’t like others causing him trouble either. He prefers to stay alone and play from time to time with the other 3 or 4 chimps that he trusts a little bit.
The caretakers try to make Luc behave in a more natural way and they try to prevent him from staying with them all the time. Serge, one of Tchimpounga´s caretaker who knows this chimp’s behaviour very well, usually grabs Luc by the hand after caressing him a bit and takes him far away from the caretakers, to leave him close to the other chimps. When Serge lets go of Luc’s hand, Luc turns around and goes back to the caretaker. Serge tries it again but without any luck. Luc doesn’t want to know anything about the social life of his group and he continues spending his days close to the caretakers. Poor Luc! He still needs a lot of time until he feels really at home with the other chimps.
This month, definitely, one of the most interesting stories has happened in group 3’s outdoor enclosure. In this enclosure, where Timi and Petit Prince live with their group, 2 enrichment elements were put for the chimps to play with. These elements consist of 2 iron boxes through which chimps can see the food, left there previously by the caretakers. Access to the food is complicated but not impossible. The holes in the walls of the boxes are big enough for little sticks to go through, which can be used by the chimps to try to get to the food. Once this happens, the food falls to the ground through bigger holes in the bottom of the box which can then be taken by the chimps.
The first day that chimps went out to the exterior enclosure and they found these enrichment elements, a great moment of excitement occurred. The chimps wanted to reach the food but they couldn’t. Quickly the most resolute chimps used sticks to try to get the food then it fell down through the holes to the ground.
Other less smart chimps felt frustrated watching how other chimps got the prize, so then they started to use sticks not to hit the boxes but their cleverer mates.
This summer 4 chimps, recently arrived from Brazzaville Zoo, finished their quarantine and they were transported by car to Tchimpounga Rescue Center. For the moment Kouilu, Shanga, Mosengo and Betou will still be isolated in one enclosure by themselves. There, they will be carefully watched by the caretakers and they will be able to exercise their muscles on the wooden structures. When the time comes they will be integrated with the rest of the chimps who go for walks everyday to the forest around the Center. At that moment they will meet their new friends, like Kudia or Kauka. New adventures are awaiting these inexperienced chimps in the near future.
Have there been any changes to the infrastructure at Tchimpounga? Are there any new enclosures in construction? Or are there any specific needs for new enclosures?
The fences surrounding the Tchimpounga exterior enclosures began to get obsolete some time ago. Chimps grow fast, and so do their strength and intelligence. They have a lot of time to think and one of their most habitual entertainments is to try to escape over or under the fences, digging holes. One of Tchimpounga´s needs is to build new fences.
Kudia has been very active this summer. Like the time she was in the quarantine forest, she is now starting to drag off the other chimpanzees in the group to explore the forest at the Tchimpounga Reserve. The keepers have to keep an eye on this intrepid chimpanzee as her expeditions go increasingly further. Kudia’s group go out every day into the forest, but these chimpanzees have to adapt to discipline, as they depend on the protection of the keepers at the Tchimpounga Centre. It is important to remember that the forests where they play so happily are full of dangers, above all if we take into account that several groups of wild chimpanzees constantly patrol the surrounding area and a meeting with them could prove fatal for Kudia or the other young chimpanzees who follow her on her investigations. The presence of the keepers is necessary, as it dissuades the wild chimpanzees from the idea of coming close to or attacking our inexpert chimpanzees.
Over the last weeks Kudia gave her keepers a tremendous fright as it was time to go back to the Centre and she did not appear. It was about 17:10. In Congo it gets dark at about 18:15 and the chimpanzees should be already in their dormitories at that time. Kudia strayed too far and got lost. The keepers had to go deep into the forest to look for her. There was almost no light and they called her desperately but she did not appear. Finally, Willy, one of Kudia’s favourite keepers, managed to find her when it was almost entirely dark. Kudia was terribly afraid and when she saw Willy she jumped on him to hug him tightly. It was a great shock for everybody and a good lesson for Kudia.
Kauka is starting to gain weight and he is leaving his “baby look” behind. Little by little, Kauka is becoming a young chimp, full of energy and much heavier, so the females in his group do not take him to walk on their backs. In the mornings, Kauka tries to climb up onto the back of some absent-minded female. At first, they agree, but after some metres, they start to feel the weight of Kauka and make him go down. Kauka offers resistance and cries, but females seem to tell him: “Kauka, you are already too old to be carried on our backs as a baby”. Kauka has to accept little by little that he is becoming a juvenile chimp.
When Kauka is expelled from the back of the females, he quickly looks for the empathy of some of his mates and he walks alongside hugging them. They are almost always the same chimps: Ulengue, Podibé, Singa and, of course, his inseparable friend Kudia.
This month, Kauka suffered a little accident when he fell down from a tree where he was playing with Tchivgna, a female full of energy. Kauka made a bad decision and tried to flee through a dry, brittle branch. When his weight pressed the branch, this gave way and Kauka fell down from a height of four to five metres. After the impact, Kauka was limping for two or three days from his left leg, but without visible injuries. After this time, Kauka has recovered quickly. The problem of these inexpert climbers is that they learn by falling and getting hurt or injured. Sometimes, some of them are seriously injured, as for instance when Tabonga, some months ago, broke his femur when he fell in a bad position.
Luc is now the most famous chimp in Congo after the late Grégoire. His confiscation was done in Brazzaville, when a dealer who came from the former Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) tried to sell him in the black market. The arrest and subsequent imprisonment of this dealer was followed by the Congolese TV, since he has been one of the first people to be tried under the law that protects great apes in a very severe way. As an educative and informative instance, this video is being showed constantly on the different channels of the country and now, everybody knows Luc and he has become a reference in the fight against illegal trafficking of chimps.
All this belongs to the human world and Luc does not seem too interested in fame. The most important for him is that his integration process into the group of chimps where he is living now gets consolidated as soon as possible. At first, there were shoves and bites; later, he spent a stage of disdain from his mates and now, finally, he is starting to interact with the rest of the chimps, building the foundations of his social future in the group. In this evolution, it is necessary the contribution of the three implied parts: On the one hand, the keepers, who must be aware with Luc and give him affection and support when he needs it so that he does not feel alone in the difficult moments. On the other hand, the chimps, that must accept him little by little. And, finally, Luc himself, who must learn to behave in the group and to respect the hierarchy. These three factors are evolving little by little and Luc will be soon a chimp definitely integrated.
Ulengue is still one of his most important connections. Kauka seems to continue having a good relationship with him.
Little by little Luc is moving away from his keepers and he spends more and more time with the chimps, as is necessary.