Give Orphaned Chimpanzees More Room To Roam!

by Jane Goodall Institute
Bailiele relaxes on Tchibebe
Bailiele relaxes on Tchibebe

When young Bailiele arrived at Tchimpounga in 2007, he came to a sanctuary full of young orphaned chimpanzees just like him. In that year, JGI took ten chimpanzee infants into care at Tchimpounga...many more than we usually see in an average year.

While this was a very challenging time for Tchimpounga’s staff, who had their hands full caring for 10 young chimpanzees who needed round-the-clock care, it was a wonderful time for Bailiele and the rest of the chimps. After the trauma of being taken from their mothers at such a young age, they now got to heal physically and emotionally with a group of peers to help them figure out chimpanzee society.

Today, Bailiele’s adventures are far from over. Not too long ago, JGI began the process of getting Bailele ready to move to Tchibebe Island, one of Tchimpounga’s new island sanctuary sites. Unlike his time at the main sanctuary site, on Tchibebe Bailiele will have a lush forest in which to roam and play with his fellow island chimps.

To help ease the transition, Bailiele was introduced to the island along with his friend Leki. Both chimps were able to explore the island at their own pace under the watchful eye of their caregivers. Bailiele was a little nervous at first, but soon calmed down enough to climb a few trees and reacquaint himself with a few old chimpanzee friends who have already been moved to Tchibebe. We at JGI are so happy that Bailiele will soon be able to call Tchibebe home!


Tabonga in his new home
Tabonga in his new home

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. 

Tiki, finally on Tchibebe Island
Tiki, finally on Tchibebe Island

Meet Tiki, one of the chimpanzees living at the Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) Tchimpounga sanctuary.

All chimpanzees are intelligent, but Tiki is one of the brightest chimpanzees that Tchimpounga has ever cared for. Along with having a very sweet and gentle disposition, Tiki has a knack for creatively testing the barriers of his enclosure.

An expert toolmaker, Tiki was actually able to figure out how to divert the current in the electric fence surrounding his area. This genius maneuver allowed Tiki to attempt several escapes … until he had to be moved indoors to prevent future attempts. Although we were sad to have to keep Tiki inside, it was necessary if we were to ensure Tiki’s safety and the safety of our staff members.

But now, because of your help, Tiki is roaming free once again! The support of our generous donors allowed JGI to prepare one of our new island sanctuary sites, Tchibebe Island, for Tiki's release into the forest of Tchibebe.

Tiki can now climb trees, feel the earth under his feet and forage for tasty fruit … a far cry from his life as a confined escape-artist.

Along with his chimpanzee friends, Tiki will be able to explore Tchibebe in total safety for many years to come.


Yoko on Tchibebe Island
Yoko on Tchibebe Island

The time has finally come … Yoko has been transferred to Tchibebe Island! This was very exciting for all of the JGI staff at Tchimpounga. Yoko has required a different housing arrangement because he is very prone to escaping his enclosures. Kefan, his best friend, had left for the islands a few months earlier.

To move Yoko to Tchibebe, JGI staff had to put him under sedation so that he could be placed in a transportation box to take the 13kms road journey, and then the 12km river journey, to reach the island.

Once Yoko reached Tchibebe he was integrated with some of his old friends from Group 3. A few days later he was integrated with the rest of the group and was allowed to venture into Tchibebe’s forest. He seemed a bit insecure and fearful of the other chimpanzees, even though they were not bothering him.

Though he immediately took to being back in the forest and seemed very comfortable in this environment, Yoko has been spending all of his time alone and avoiding the others, which is unusual. We hope that little by little, Yoko will adjust to living in a larger community of chimpanzees. It must be a bit of a shock to go from with living with only three others to suddenly living with 20 other chimpanzees. Over time, we hope he will be as comfortable with his new chimpanzee family as he appears to be with the forest.

Kudia loves exploring her new island home!
Kudia loves exploring her new island home!

Kudia continues to adapt to life in her new home on Tchindzoulou Island. To ensure her safety and the safety of the other chimpanzees on the islands, JGI caregivers continue to follow and watch Kudia and her companions as they roam through the forest.

There are always three or four caregivers following the chimpanzees, who sometimes split up and go in different directions. Several times a day the chimps receive supplementary food, which is delivered by boat. The caregivers ensure that each chimpanzee receives their daily amount. The food is prepared at basecamp, which is located on the river bank opposite Tchindzoulou Island. When the chimps hear or see the boat departing from the basecamp, they know that meal time will not be far away!

 Kudia and her friends still receive supplemental food from JGI staff every day on the island. Their daily diet consists of bananas, papayas, oranges, grapefruits, pineapples, watermelons, potatoes, peppers, cooked rice, soya mash and some vegetables. All of these delicious foods provide vitamins, proteins and the nutrition necessary to ensure that the chimps remain healthy and strong. Caregivers prepare all food carefully in the camp. Fruits and vegetables are washed one by one to avoid contamination with bacteria from human world. It is necessary to pay attention to this because chimpanzees are genetically similar to humans, and are therefore susceptible to contracting human diseases.

 Once the food is prepared, the caregivers put it into plastic boxes and then on to a boat which travels through the Kouilou River to the riverbank of Tchindzoulou Island. Kudia waits impatiently and all of the chimpanzees grow excited for their meal, embracing and screaming as they anticipate receiving their treats. Kudia, while one of the youngest in the group, has managed to rise to a higher level in the hierarchy and so demands a lot of respect from her fellow chimps, who allow her access to the food before others who are lower in rank than herself.

 Wounda and Kudia have become friends since they arrived on the island. Chamayou, who is the new head caregiver, gives each chimpanzee their portions of food. Sometimes the chimps check what is available first, and if they do not like what he is offering them, they will wait for the pieces they want! There may be for example papaya, bananas, watermelon and boiled sweet potatoes on offer. Kudia fills her mouth quickly with bananas while other chimpanzee push her aside to get closer to the food.

 Once everyone has received their food, they relax and recline on the riverbank, under the shade of the trees. Tchindzoulou island is approximately 13 kms (8 miles) from the mouth of the Kouilou River, and by midday the offshore breeze travels up the river, providing a cool breeze for the chimps and staff alike. Wounda and Kudia rest on a large branch and groom each other, taking the time to carefully search for any dirt and debris that could be in their hair. Grooming is not only done for hygiene, it also helps create strong bonds between individuals.

 Workers have started construction on the large dormitory for Tchindzoulou. This dormitory will be very large and is planned to accommodate up to 70 chimpanzees. Its footprint is 15 meters (45’) by 36 meters (108’). The presence of the builders on the island has created a lot of interest from the chimps. So much so, that the JGI team decided to send some of them over to Tchibebe to join the larger group there. Silaho, Tambikissa, Ouband and Ngaou have all moved sites and are now integrated into the Tchibebe group and are doing wonderfully. We plan to move all of the chimpanzees in the same way so that they can be at peace, while giving the construction team the freedom to work without worrying about chimps nearby in another enclosure.

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Organization Information

Jane Goodall Institute

Location: Vienna, Virginia - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Brittany Cohen-Brown
Membership & Marketing
Vienna, Virginia United States