We are working on finding placement for orphan chimpanzee Toto who is now over 2 and 1/2 years old. He spends all of his days out "en brousse" (in the bush) where he plays and climbs trees. He now displays like a male chimpanzee, complete with pant hoots!
We are currently exploring the possiblity of sending Toto to an established sanctuary, as he is too large to be considered an infant by wild chimpanzees in his natal group, and the ongoing gold rush in southeastern Senegal means that the increasing human populations could endanger Toto as well as the chimpanzee group he was born into. Since Toto was not seized by poachers but instead rescued by humans he was familiar with as observers of his social group, he has had no negative interactions with humans and, while he shows an aversion to strangers as all chimpanzees do, he is not fearful. This could be to his disadvantage since many of the gold miners in Senegal now are from countries that do not have the same taboos against eating apes that the Senegalese people do. In addition to endangering Toto, placing him in conditions where he might encounter people that would like to capture him would also endanger his fellow group members, as they would surely come to his aid.
We would like to place Toto with other chimpanzees as quickly as possible but as is the case with most chimpanzee orphanages in Africa, the ones on West Africa are full to capacity. More news to come on Toto's fate, but know that he is happy and healthy and doing well thanks to the generous donations of people like you!
Happy New Year greetings to all of our supporters! Toto is doing well & we are making plans for the next phase of his life. Now that Toto is over 2 years of age, he can survive on solid foods, and he is in desparate need of chimpanzee companionship. He spends most mornings out "en brousse" (out in the bush) so that he can use up a little of his amazing energy!
We have always entertained the possibility that Toto might be returned to his natal group but given the influx of people mining for gold in the Fongoli area, the environment is too unstable for Toto. He has no reason to fear humans, and some of the gold miners come from countries where chimpanzees are not protected as they are in Senegal. If Toto were to encounter humans that wanted to capture or otherwise harm him, he is still too small to escape unaided. He would be in danger and would put the entire Fongoli chimpanzee group in danger.
We are hoping to place Toto with other captive chimpanzees in Senegal, and this move will likely be this year. We will then work to raise funds to support Toto indefinitely.
On the subject of fundraising, we are still selling 2015 calendars - on sale now for $10! You can find more information on our Neighbor Ape Facebook Page or send any inquiries to Neighbor Ape, 1216 Burnett, Ames, IA 50010.
Toto has just turned two! And, he has been in our care (specifically, under the care of Janis Carter of the Baboon Islands Chimpanzee Sanctuary in The Gambia) for almost two years. While captive apes are generally a year ahead of their wild counterparts in skeletal & physiological development, Toto seems to have gone above and beyond! He is almost as large as juvenile Fongoli chimpanzee Cy, who will be turning five this year!
While Toto's excellent health and large size will help him in some ways to adapt to a social (chimpanzee!) environment, he is technically still an infant. We are currently working with Senegalese authorities to determine Toto's next home, and this will be decided - hopefully - by the end of the year.
In preparation for Toto's next home, we have been taking him out "en brousse" (out in the field) almost daily when possible. He is quite the expert at tree climbing although he does often walk bipedally, most certainly because he is imitating his human caretakers! He has outgrown being able to associate with his feline companions - he is just too rough - and we are looking forward to being able to introduce him to other chimpanzees.
We plan on caring for Toto indefinitely if necessary - for example, if his permanent home will be in a sanctuary that either already exists or one that will be built. To that end, we will be introducing various fundraising campaigns, such as calendar sales (see photo of handsome Fongoli chimp Bo on a sample calendar page!). We also hope to use Toto's story to raise awareness about chimpanzees in Senegal, where most of the country's apes live outside of officially protected areas.
Given the increase in mining activity in this country, chimpanzees will inevitably come into contact with humans more frequently, and educating Senegalese and others on the complexity, intelligence and remarkably humanlike aspects of chimpanzee behavior will help prevent persecution of this species in an increasingly populous area. We think that Toto's story will resonate with people, and the opportunity to share his story via workshops and other ways is only made possible by the kindness of generous donors such as yourselves!
Good news on Toto's progress - he is still growing rapidly! He weighs almost 40 pounds now and is not yet two years old! He has been going out "en brousse" (into the wild) about twice a week to learn more about the environment into which he was born and to familiarize him with chimpanzee wild foods. He will be two years old in August, and this is the time around which we've scheduled our decision as to Toto's future.
After two years of age, it is possible for a young chimpanzee to live on foods other than milk. This means that, theoretically, Toto could go back to the group that he was born into - the Fongoli community of chimpanzees, the study group habituated to the presence of observers beginning in the year 2001 and continuing until today.
However, Toto would still need to be carried, protected and given food in some cases where it is too difficult for a young chimp to get access to a certain food. The hard-husked shells of the Baobab fruit, for example prevent young chimpanzees from accessing the fruit pulp, but this is a very important food source for chimps in Senegal. Even though Toto's older sister Aimee had been weaned when their mother Tia died, she was not yet big enough to reliably and efficiently process baobab fruits, and other chimps in the group shared theirs with her, especially the older adult males. Even though Toto is very big for his age (3 or 4 times larger than a wild chimp of the same age!), he would not be strong enough to access some foods, and he would need to learn many, many techniques when it comes to foraging for food on his own.
Another obstacle to releasing Toto into the wild concerns the influx of many more people into southeastern Senegal as part of the current "gold rush". Toto has much less fear of humans than even the best-habituated Fongoli study group chimpanzees, and this could be problematic for him. People coming to Senegal to look for gold do not necessarily have the same taboos against hunting and eating apes that the Senegalese have. Finally, in considering Toto's fate, we must consider most prominently the fate of the chimpanzee social group that he would be introduced to. We have consistently kept Toto as isolated as possible from humans other than a few caretakers. It is crucial to ensure that Toto would not introduce any diseases or illnesses to a wild chimpanzeee group that he contracted from living in close proximity to humans, as chimpanzees can acquire many of the same illnesses as humans, but they do not have the same immunity to them as we do.
With these obstacles in mind, especially the influx of people into Senegal as part of the gold rush, we have also come up with different options for Toto. These could include keeping him in a semi-captive situation such as you find with chimpanzee, gorilla and bonobo sanctuaries in various places in Africa. He will definitely be introduced to other chimpanzees, as this is perhaps the most important part of a chimpanzee's life (being social) after their basic needs have been met. We hope to be able to reveal our plan for Toto by the end of this year and start working to make it a reality. Currently, he is still living in Kedougou, under the care of Janis Carter and with his two "fathers", Ousmane and Pelel.
Without a doubt, Toto is a very confident as well as a strong and precocious young chimp - he did not go through the trauma that other ape orphans usually go through when they are brought into a captive situation. Toto was simply retrieved by humans he knew after his mother died and no other chimpanzees found him. We are all very intrigued to see how Toto's confidence translates into a social situation with other chimpanzees! Stay tuned for future updates!
I was lucky enough to be able to visit with Toto briefly at the beginning of January, when I spent a week at my study site in Senegal to see how things are going. We have a period in which we quarantine ourselves (for a two-week period) following international flights, so that I was unable to interact with Toto since the appropriate amount of time had not passed. However, I was able to visit him and observe him briefly as well as speak with his main caretaker. Of course, Janis Carter is his official caretaker, and he is constantly being monitored regarding his health and development.
Toto is now one year and four months old, and he is VERY healthy! In terms of size, he is the same size as the five-year old wild infant "Cy" in my Fongoli study group. This year, Toto will theoretically be able to survive on his own, by eating foods that wild chimpanzees do, even though infant chimpanzees in the wild usually nurse for around four years. Reintroducing Toto to his natal group or to another group in Senegal are definite possibilities that we have in mind for Toto's future, but there are also other possibilities, such as sending him to an established chimpanzee sanctuary or perhaps building a chimpanzee sanctuary in Senegal for the handful of captive chimpanzees in this country that are in the zoo in the capitol city of Dakar.
Toto is adept at climbing now and sometimes walks bipedal - likely because all of his role models in recent history have been humans! We hope to be able to soon introduce Toto to members of his own species but of course do not want to do so before he is ready. Given his rapid development, we are hopeful that he will be a dominant force in any group to which he is introduced! Without your kind contributions, we could not have taken in this orphan and cared for him as we have. Please stay tuned for more news of Toto's future!
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