Care for Chimp Infants Confiscated from Poachers

by Wildlife Conservation Global
Care for Chimp Infants Confiscated from Poachers
Care for Chimp Infants Confiscated from Poachers
Care for Chimp Infants Confiscated from Poachers
Care for Chimp Infants Confiscated from Poachers
Care for Chimp Infants Confiscated from Poachers
Care for Chimp Infants Confiscated from Poachers
Care for Chimp Infants Confiscated from Poachers
Care for Chimp Infants Confiscated from Poachers
Care for Chimp Infants Confiscated from Poachers
Care for Chimp Infants Confiscated from Poachers
ICCN Eco-Guards stand at attention.
ICCN Eco-Guards stand at attention.

ICCN Eco-Guards continue to patrol the Reserve preventing and removing illegal mining, poaching, and wildlife trade threats. Whenever one of these incursions is shut down, there is no telling what victims of the wildlife trade will be left behind. Okapi Conservation Project remains ready to receive wildlife that has been impacted by these events.

The unfortunate reality, while it is so easy for these illegal operations to disrupt the environment and cause harm to wildlife, it is a much more complex operation to undo the damage. Fortunately, we have formed a strong alliance between ICCN, ourselves, and rehabilitation facilities to provide an effective line of care for the victims that would otherwise be stranded. 

While we have been lucky enough to have had no confiscations in the recent months, we know from the experience of other reserves the threat is still present. When animals are brought to us from Eco-Guards they are often in need of medical attention and can be malnourished or dehydrated. It is important for us to have the necessary supplies on hand to treat wounds or illness and a team available to provide care before they can be transported to a more permanent care facility. 

Chimpanzees and monkeys rescued from ICCN patrols receive temporary care at our Epulu station while they wait for transport to the Lwiro Primates sanctuary where they will receive the bulk of their care. Lwiro is a sanctuary dedicated to the rehabilitation of these orphaned primates where they can receive the long term care they need to remain healthy.

Your support means that we can be ready at any moment to provide care for the chimpanzees and other wildlife that are rescued during ICCN patrols. Between getting medical supplies to such a rural area, providing caretakers, and transporting the rescued wildlife as needed, it can be an expensive endeavor to care for these forlorn animals. Be a part of giving wildlife a second chance by supporting today!

A chimpanzee investigates a camera trap.
A chimpanzee investigates a camera trap.

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Focus Group During World Okapi Day
Focus Group During World Okapi Day

On October 18th, we celebrated World Okapi Day across the Reserve. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to host the large celebrations we are used to, but we still stayed committed to making the event fun and most importantly - spreading awareness for okapi. While individuals celebrated in small groups of family and friends, we also hosted awareness campaigns in each of the villages. During these meetings, community leaders got together in small, socially distanced groups to learn more about the okapi, what can be done to help protect their environment, discuss how their local communities can help, and brainstorm how DRC can move toward being more environmentally conscious.

One of the recurring themes during the brainstorm sessions was the general instability brought on across the Reserve due to antagonistic groups like rogue militants and the illegal wildlife/poaching trade. It is of great concern to leaders to ensure these threats are removed for both the safety of communities and the health of the environment.

As you may already know, these threats recently became a reality for OCP and our partners in the ICCN. On the evening of September 17th, the patrol post at Adusa at the western entrance of the Reserve was ambushed by a group of armed men, resulting in the deaths of two eco-guards members. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of these guards, who risked their lives to protect the Reserve and the animals within. OCP and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve supported the costs of the funerals for these eco-guards to reduce the financial burden on their families.

Chimpanzees are often the target for bushmeat and the illegal wildlife trade by armed men in the Reserve. Entire troops of chimpanzees are killed for their meat and the young are illegally sold as pets in the markets for additional income. The presence of these groups within the forest can have dire consequences to the health of wildlife and people from destruction of forest and the poaching of bushmeat in order to establish camp.

As always, we are working hand-in-hand with ICCN to establish a safe place for both wildlife and communities in and around the Reserve. While it is always disheartening when we face violent acts and major setbacks, we know that with your help, we are proving protection where there would otherwise be none. 

Chimps Spotted by Camera Trap
Chimps Spotted by Camera Trap
Newly Trained ICCN Eco-Guards
Newly Trained ICCN Eco-Guards

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Rescued Chimpanzee
Rescued Chimpanzee

Due to the threat of COVID-19, the new restrictions of the DRC government to limit the spread of the disease, there has been a reduction of ICCN ranger patrols around the Reserve, but they remain steadfast in working hard to remove snares and document wildlife sightings on the patrols they are able to conduct. We are happy to still see a good number of wildlife sightings reported, including 3 okapi and 6 chimpanzees.

As fewer people are spending time on the road, it is possible that poachers are feeling more confident in moving around the Reserve, and profiting from the pandemic restrictions. It is important that we stay vigilant with these movements, and do not allow poachers to travel around the Reserve. ICCN has had some success on this front, confiscating 2 chimpanzees from poachers this quarter that would have made it into the illegal wildlife trade.

Rangers are using the downtime caused by the virus to further their training in combating poaching, currently taking anti-poaching courses to improve their effectiveness.

The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is no stranger to fighting disease. In fact, the most recent Ebola epidemic in eastern DRC was declared over by the World Health Organization just two weeks ago. In addition, all the handwashing stations and temperature checkpoints remain in operation, now serving a dual purpose of COVID-19 prevention. With poaching a continuous threat and the addition of COVID-19 restricting movement within the Reserve, your support is appreciated now more than ever. Thank you to everyone who has and will contribute to protecting chimpanzees in the Ituri Forest.

Camera traps monitor wildlife across the Reserve.
Camera traps monitor wildlife across the Reserve.

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Chimpanzee documented on camera trap.
Chimpanzee documented on camera trap.

ICCN Rangers have continued their hard work through 2019, protecting the Okapi Wildlife Reserve from poaching threats deep within its dense rainforest, A total of 96 patrols were completed covering about 3000km of the Reserve during the first three quarters

Despite the challenges of hiking such a treacherous environment, often with limited and well-worn gear, the rangers were able to shut down operations on 16 illegal mining camps, 16 poachers’ camps, and remove over 1500 snares from the Reserve. It is critical to remove these snares, as they are very effective in catching chimpanzees and other primates. Even if an animal can break free, these snares can cause severe and permanent injury, as well as send the animal into a terrible panic. These permanent wounds are often found on the primate’s limb, crippling them and causing them to become ineffective hunters and travelers. Rangers work diligently to remove these snares as quickly as possible and combat the root cause of the problem - the poachers themselves and mining camps that rely on the bushmeat for their operations. No chimpanzees or other primates were confiscated over the past 3 months.

A variety of primates were spotted along ICCN patrols, including 19 chimpanzees, 26 crested mangabeys, 26 grey-cheeked mangabeys, 56 red-tailed monkeys, 1 owl-headed monkey, 48 mona momnkeys, 32 angolan colobuses, and 1 baboon. Aside from primates- 6 okapi, 2 buffalo, 57 duikers, and 5 wild hogs were also spotted by rangers.

Okapi Conservation Project’s continued support of agroforestry programs in surrounding villages continues to take pressure off the Ituri Forest’s resources. With sustainable agriculture practices being implemented, villagers are becoming less and less reliant on bushmeat, and therefore poaching. The reduction of slash-and-burn agriculture also keeps the more of the forest intact for wildlife.

We commend the ICCN rangers for their protection of wildlife, and with your help can continue to assist them in their patrols and reducing bushmeat poaching.

Confiscated nylon snares
Confiscated nylon snares

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Mokonzi with female chimp infant
Mokonzi with female chimp infant

In the past year, a total of five chimpanzee infants and one baboon have been confiscated by ICCN rangers in the northeastern region of DRC. After each confiscation, they were brought to our station in Epulu for immediate care for stabilization before transferring them to Lwiro Primate Sanctuary in Bukavu for long term care.

Recently, with the threat of Ebola in the region, the new protocol is to bring these infants to our station first for a minimum 21-day quarantine period before being transferred to Lwiro. This is to prevent the transfer of the disease to the other animals in their care. The immediate care we provide includes formula, food, medicine to treat any wounds or illnesses and a caretaker that spends time caring for each chimp until the quarantine period passes and transport can be arranged.

Most recently, two chimps were confiscated a few months ago from known Ebola areas. A male chimp from Maiko National Park and a female from the town of Mambasa. Once confiscated, our team immediately went into action to care for these chimps. Mokonzi began caring for the female and Mao began caring for the male. Though we believe them to be close in age, the male is much smaller and lighter in color, possibly due to malnourishment. He also arrived with an unknown eye injury or infection. Both chimps were treated and deemed clear of Ebola, and once they were stabilized, we arranged transport to Lwiro Primate Sanctuary with the help of Anthony Caere, a pilot with Virunga National Park.

In addition to caring for the orphaned infants, we are working with ICCN rangers to increase the patrol efforts to close gold mines, since bushmeat poaching is closely tied with these remote mines in the forest. We have been working with ICCN rangers since our inception in 1987 to close illegal gold mines to protect the rainforest habitat that houses okapi, forest elephants and chimpanzees.

With the increase in patrols and more effective training from ICCN rangers, we expect additional chimps and primates to be confiscated in the coming months and/or years. Because of your support, we are able to assist in the initial stabilizing care and quarantine period for the infants before transferred to their new families at Lwiro.

Thank you!

Female and Male chimp flying to Lwiro. A. Caere
Female and Male chimp flying to Lwiro. A. Caere

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Organization Information

Wildlife Conservation Global

Location: Jacksonville, FL - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
John Lukas
Jacksonville, Florida United States

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