Help Feed over 150 Orphaned Chimpanzees

by Jane Goodall Institute

Recently, Tchimpounga's director, Dr. Rebeca Atencia, received a call about a baby chimpanzee that was being kept illegally as a pet. The chimpanzee's "owner" was arrested, and the chimp was brought to the Brazzaville Zoo before being transferred to Tchimpounga.

The little chimp, named Falero, was weak and depressed but luckily had no serious health issues or injuries. He will remain in quarantine for three months to protect his health and the health of his future chimpanzee group-mates. In the meantime, Falero is enjoying time with his adoptive "mother" Chantal, one of Tchimpounga's most experienced caregivers.

Falero has so far shown himself to be a very sweet and gentle chimpanzee who loves to play. Though he still suffers from poor sleep and nightmares, he is doing better every night, snuggled up to Chantal for comfort. Soon he will be introduced to a group of young chimpanzees like him, who were taken from their their mothers much too soon.

It is very important for Falero and all chimpanzees at Tchimpounga to develop relationships with other chimpanzees as well as their caregivers.


Ngoro Resting in Her Enclosure
Ngoro Resting in Her Enclosure

Ngoro was rescued and brought to Tchimpounga in 2005. She was confiscated by the wildlife authorities in Pointe Noire. Like many rescued chimpanzees brought to Tchimpounga, Ngoro was very thin and depressed. She sat hugging herself and was barely able to move. The staff worked very hard to rehabilitate her, not only physically, but also psychologically. Once she had recovered enough, she was integrated with the four other chimpanzees that had arrived that year. After which, they were integrated into larger social group of chimpanzees of similar age.

Ngoro has also struggled with health problems. She would usually be the first to get sick in her chimpanzee group, and never really put on weight like the others. After many tests, she was found to have gastric ulcers. The origin of the ulcers is unknown –they could be due to her poor health before being rescued, or not being able to handle the stress of a big social group. Regardless, the Tchimpounga team decided she needed to live with a smaller social group, one where she could manage her stress as best as possible, while still having the company of other chimpanzees.

The first move was to put her with Podive, another chimpanzee who has special health issues and has to be separated from the larger social groups. At night time, Podive and Ngoro were neighbours with chimpanzees named La Vielle and Lemba, and some of the other younger chimpanzees. As smart as they are, many chimpanzees are escape artists and manage to jump from one enclosure to another; despite all attempts to prevent them from doing so. Ngoro, is one of those chimpanzees who likes to do so, and often got herself into the same enclosure as La Vielle and Lemba. She loved the time she had with the younger chimpanzees, and especially her time with Lemba.

Ngoro is also a very empathetic chimpanzee, one who has been very caring of others. Another one of her neighbours was Lounama, who has a heart condition. As such a caring chimpanzee, Ngoro would often share her food through the mesh to Lounama. While this was a lovely gesture, unfortunately it could not be allowed to continue, because Lounama needs to remain on a very strict diet due to her heart condition. So, the team decided it was better to let Ngoro go and live with La Vieille and Lemba. This would allow her to continue being the caring and social chimpanzee that she is, without putting Lounama at risk. This has been a great treat for both Ngoro and Lemba, who have become very close over the last few months

Ngoro and Lemba Spend Time Together
Ngoro and Lemba Spend Time Together



Most days, Jeje is allowed to go explore a little patch of forest in the Tchimpounga reserve with the rest of his group, Group 4, and his Tchimpounga caregivers. However, when wild chimpanzees are seen in the forests near Tchimpounga, it isn’t safe to bring the little chimps of Group 4 out to play. Instead they play in their outdoor enclosure, which can be a bit boring for a boisterous chimp like Jeje.

Like a young child, Jeje sometimes resorts to annoying others to relieve his boredom. One day when the chimps were not able to go into the forest to play, Jeje’s friend Mondele decided to play a game where he attempts to keep an object balanced on his back for as long as possible. Mondele placed a small rock carefully on his back, and began to walk through the enclosure.

Seeing this, Jeje decided to create his own game; trying to knock the rock off of Mondele’s back. His tactics were kicking at Mondele’s feet and slapping the rock away with his hands. When Mondele finally had enough and turned to hit Jeje, Jeje cried out ... and then convinced Mondele to apologize to him!

Jeje then went off to play with his groupmates Alex and Antonio, who were busy digging a hole in the dirt. This game seemed to bore Jeje, and he started to walk away. Before leaving, however, he couldn’t help but look back and push Alex into the hole he was digging! Alex chased Jeje to get him back, but Jeje got away. Hopefully Group 4 is able to return to the forest soon, and Jeje’s friends can get a respite from his antics.


Anzac plays with her new "toy"
Anzac plays with her new "toy"

Young Anzac sleeps with her friends Willy, Sam and Zola. Since it's now the dry season in the Republic of Congo, overcast days and cool nights are made even cooler by the offshore winds that arrive in the dry season. Zola and Anzac hug each other for warmth. Their mothers are gone, and so the orphans have to help each other. Others, like Sam and Willy, prefer to make a nest with dry and soft grass that caregivers put in the bedroom. During the winter months, staff provides extra bedding to the younger and older chimpanzees, giving them blankets or towels to use in their nest to help retain more warmth.

In the morning Anzac and her companions go outside into the enclosure. They play a little while caretakers are busy preparing bottles of warm milk for them. The sun begins to rise on the horizon and the freshness of the morning changes the cold morning into a balmy day.

Every year, when temperatures drop, many chimps become vulnerable to flu viruses that abound in the human communities. Caregivers and the veterinary team conduct thorough monitoring of each chimpanzee, especially smaller ones like Anzac This year she has not yet been sick, although some of her companions have. The veterinary team administers most of their medicines orally, using a large plastic syringe to offer medicine directly into the mouth of each sick individual. Anzac managed to “steal” one from the vet team as they were giving Sam his medicine. Anzac is very fast and no one was able to recover the syringe from her. For Anzac, this syringe is a perfect toy to play with. She has great imagination, using it like a cup, as she refills the syringe barrel with water from their water fountain. This process is quite challenging, as Anzac has to put just enough pressure on the fountain to ensure it dribbles into the syringe, rather than spurts her in the face. She also has to block the end of the syringe, so she does not lose the water. She does this all with just one arm, as her left arm was amputated before she arrived to the sanctuary. Staff suspect that she may have either lost her arm in a snare or from a bullet wound during the killing of her mother.

Yet, even with this disability, she proves extremely skillful in the use of the syringe as a water vessel. The other, younger chimps come to watch, to beg for a sip from her novel “cup.”  But she pays them no heed; instead she remains focused on her new favorite toy.  Even when the caregivers take the younger chimpanzees to the forest with group four, Anzac hides her new toy in her mouth. She was so attentive of her new toy that, even the next day, staff could see her still playing with it.

Mambou, Alex and their other friend, Sammy
Mambou, Alex and their other friend, Sammy

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!



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Jane Goodall Institute

Location: Vienna, Virginia - USA
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Brittany Cohen-Brown
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