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!
Mbebo has become great pals with Motambo over recent months. Motambo is a chimpanzee who came into the sanctuary with some of the worst injuries that our staff have ever witnessed. When Motambo first arrived, he was suffering from a broken collarbone, serious injuries to his left wrist and hips, injuries in his mouth and a severe case of tetanus which was causing him tremendous pain. Motambo spent the first 12 months recovering from his most serious injuries with La Vieille’s group, as he still needed to take it easy and had a fine fracture in his wrist that would take longer to heal. Once he was fit enough, Motambo was transferred to Mbebo’s group and they have been pals ever since. Each day, Mbebo’s group goes into the forest to play. Motambo, who is more cautious and unsure about leaving the enclosure than the other chimpanzees in his group, usually stays behind and refuses to join his friends on the walk across the grassland to the forest. This was fine with the caregivers; they are willing to let every chimpanzee progress at his own pace, but they still encouraged Motambo to join them. This meant that every day, Mbebo was torn between wanting to go with everyone to the forest or staying behind with his friend. Group 4’s daily forest walks are an important part of their education: not only does it provide them with enrichment and play opportunities, it allows them to learn about forest foods and to gain strength and stamina climbing and playing in their natural habitat.
Sometimes Mbebo would decide to go to the forest, then once he got there, would start crying to the staff, which they knew meant he wanted to go back to the enclosure and hang out with his friend Motambo! So the staff would have to walk back once again to let him spend time with Motambo. For the last two months, the caregivers have been working with Motambo to build up his confidence. Every day, they offer him the opportunity to leave the enclosure and walk to the forest with them and the other chimpanzees of Group 4. But last week, Motambo finally drummed up the courage to go with his friends to the forest! What a relief for Mbebo, who now has the best of both worlds. He can hang out all day with his best friend, and get to be in the forest with the rest of his group.
The rainy season has ended in Congo and the skies are covered with clouds almost all of the time. This has caused the temperature to drop and the evenings have become chilly and fresh. This is the season during which many of the chimps at Tchimpounga catch a cold, especially the younger chimps.
Earlier this summer, Anzac and the other youngsters in her group developed colds, which meant lots of runny noses! The veterinary team reacted quickly and isolated those who were ill to prevent them from spreading the illness to the others. Medication is provided by mouth, and if a chimpanzee has a fever it is sometime necessary to give them an antibiotic injection instead of oral, as it will work quicker.
When the infants have a fever, caregivers stay with them 24 hours a day to regularly check their temperature and keep the veterinary team informed of their condition. It is easy to give Anzac her medication because it is orange and tasty. The medicine is inserted into her mouth with a large syringe, and Anzac drinks it as if it were a tasty drink. The other chimpanzees watch carefully and await for their turn, looking longingly at the basket full of syringes. Two chimpanzees who are not sick still receive a syringe full of orange juice so they are not left out. Doing this helps avoid fights over who received a “treat” and who did not.
Coordination between the nurses and caregivers at Tchimpounga must be exact so that all chimps are well cared for. Caregivers are the people who spend more time with the chimpanzees than anyone else, so they are responsible for monitoring them for symptoms that might indicate that they are sick. When Anzac started showing her first symptoms of fever, the response of caregivers was immediate, warning the nurses who took immediate action to start treating her. This rapid response is vital because it can save the life of a chimpanzee, especially if they are very young.
A few days after of receiving her treatment, Anzac started regaining her vitality and returns to her normal play with the others. During her treatment time, Anzac was able to observe how the caregivers provide Lemba, her oldest roommate, with her physiotherapy. Lemba is paralyzed in both legs from contracting Polio. Her caregivers use a large rubber ball to help Lemba exercise her legs. Anzac also wanted to try out the new toy, but she wasn’t yet big enough so instead she just bounced off the ball. This of course has become a great game for Anzac, and now she waits until Lemba has finished her exercises and then the staff let her bounce around on the exercise ball!
We would like to introduce you to Willy, the first orphaned chimpanzee to arrive at the Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center this year. Named after a dedicated sanctuary caregiver, Willy is very young — roughly only one year old.
In the wild, Willy would be cared for by his mother for several more years. Sadly, Willy was taken from his family by poachers who sold him illegally as a pet. Willy was confiscated by Congolese authorities from a family in the Niari region of the Republic of Congo.
Fortunately, Tchimpounga's veterinary team found no injuries on Willy and his weight was within normal limits. This is not very common for orphaned chimpanzees, who often arrive at Tchimpounga suffering from malnutrition and dehydration.
To help Willy adjust to life at Tchimpounga, he will be spending his nights with Chantal, a seasoned JGI caregiver. Soon, Willy will be integrated with other chimpanzees close to his own age.
Willy’s arrival illustrates why it is so important for JGI to continue the expansion of the Tchimpounga sanctuary to include three forested islands in the Kouilou River. Transferring adult chimpanzees to these islands means that Tchimpounga will always have room for the orphaned chimpanzees that are brought to our door in the coming years.
Please note, Dr. Jane Goodall and the Jane Goodall Institute do not endorse handling or interfering with wild chimpanzees. The chimpanzee discussed in this story and depicted in these photos was rescued and now lives at the Jane Goodall Institute's Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo.
The rainy season is here, and the weather at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo has become extremely hot and humid. At the sanctuary, chimpanzees and their human caregivers are always trying to find ways to escape the sweltering heat.
One day Lemba, a chimpanzee who has taken on the role as “surrogate mother” to a number of infant chimpanzees at the sanctuary, had enough with the heat. After trying to cool off by hanging from a high tree branch, Lemba snuck away from the other chimpanzees and her caregivers.
Within her enclosure, walking around the food preparation building, she stopped near an outside water tap. Quietly, Lemba moved a nearby wheelbarrow so it sat under the tap’s spout, and turned on the water. Soon, Lemba was cooling off in her new pool! A few moments later, Zola, a young chimpanzee from Lemba’s group, came over to investigate and splash with Lemba.
Alerted by the sound of splashing water, Lemba’s caregiver Angel soon discovered what Lemba was up to. Lemba tried to escape, but accidentally tipped the wheelbarrow over and soaked everyone!
Lemba is a very intelligent chimpanzee who keeps her caretakers on their toes, and we are sure that it won’t be long before she thinks of another unique way to stay cool in the coming weeks.
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