Are there any funny / interesting stories from the last month?
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.
Are there any new integrations or additions to the groups?
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.
Specific Chimp Updates:
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.