Category Archives: sanctuaries

Dr. Jane Goodall and KWS Director General visit Sweetwaters

Renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall visited Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary on 14th July, accompanied by the Director General of the Kenya Wildlife Service, Mr. Kitili Mbathi. When asked if she would be cold riding in the back of an open safari vehicle on the chilly morning, with characteristic pragmatism she replied, “I suppose I shall just have to be.”

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Dr. Jane Goodall and Mr. Kitili Mbathi, Director General of Kenya Wildlife Service, arrive on Ol Pejeta Conservancy on a plane chartered by PEGAS

In July 1960, at the age of 26, Jane Goodall travelled from England to what is now Tanzania and courageously entered the extraordinary world of wild chimpanzees. She was equipped with nothing more than a notebook and a pair of binoculars. But with her resolute patience and optimism, she won the trust of these initially wary creatures, and she managed to open a window into their mysterious lives, finding surprising similarities with our own. The public was fascinated and remains so to this day. Her 1971 book, In the Shadow of Man, was an international best-seller.

Today, Jane’s work revolves around inspiring action on behalf of endangered species, particularly chimpanzees, and encouraging people to do their part to make the world a better place for people, animals, and the environment we all share.

The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), founded in 1977, works to protect the famous chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania, where she first began her research 56 years ago, but also supports community-based conservation throughout East Africa and the Congo Basin, engaging with communities to win long-term conservation impact.

The Institute’s community-centred conservation programs in Africa include sustainable development projects that engage local people as true partners. These programmes began around Gombe in 1994, but they have since been replicated in other parts of the continent. Likewise, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, which Jane started with a group of Tanzania students in 1991, is today the Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program for young people from preschool through university with nearly 150,000 members in more than 130 countries.

Jane came to Nanyuki, where Ol Pejeta Conservancy is located, to speak at Mount Kenya Safari Club to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Kenya Roots & Shoots programme. PEGAS thought it offered an ideal opportunity for her to return to the Sweetwaters sanctuary, which was created in 1993 largely through her instigation, in cooperation with KWS and Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The aim is to provide lifelong refuge to orphaned and abused chimpanzees. The first chimpanzees to arrive were individuals that Jane had rescued from horrible conditions of captivity in Burundi.

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Jane looks at a photograph of herself and Uruhara, a chimpanzee that she rescued in Burundi more than 20 years ago, as they share a hoot.

After obtaining enthusiastic agreement from Ol Pejeta for Jane’s visit, PEGAS contacted Alpana Patel, JGI’s representative in Kenya (also a PEGAS Steering Committee member) for her views on the visit. Would the 81-year old world traveller have the stamina and desire to combine a day visit to Sweetwaters with an evening talk and fund-raiser at Mount Kenya Safari Club? After checking with Jane’s people in the USA, yes was the resounding answer.

Jane and Kitili Mbathi arrived from Nairobi on the PEGAS charter flight right on time, and off we drove across Ol Pejeta Conservancy to the Sweetwaters sanctuary, where the CEO Richard Vigne and other staff were waiting to welcome them.

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Richard Vigne, CEO of Ol Pejeta, welcomes Jane and Kitili to the Sweetwaters sanctuary

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Jane poses with the Sweetwaters staff. Stephen Ngulu, veterinarian and Sweetwaters Manager on the left and Joseph Maiyo, head Caretaker, on the far right

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Jane advises Annick Mitchell, Ol Pejeta’s Tourism Manager, about how best to explain the mock termite mound. Dr. Goodall first revealed to the world that chimpanzees are also tool-users, using twigs to catch termites to eat

The first order of business was for Jane to open the new Education Centre at Sweetwaters, which provides informative graphics that instruct visitors about the threats to chimpanzee survival, including the capture of infants for the lucrative pet and entertainment industries.

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Jane opens the Education Centre with a celebratory chimpanzee hoot

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After a presentation on infant capture and trafficking, Jane asked, “How many chimpanzees are killed during these infant captures?”

I replied, “It’s estimated that 9 to 10 are killed for every infant captured.”

With a slight smile Jane remarked, “I always hear that number, but chimps are intelligent. When the shooting starts they just run away.”

She made her point, and I think some actual field research is in order on great ape poaching and capture.

For the next two hours we visited both chimpanzee groups, which live in large, fenced enclosures vegetated by natural savanna bushland on opposite sides of the Uaso Nyiro River. The river acts as a natural barrier to separate the two groups, as chimpanzees cannot swim.

Jane was anxious to see Uruhara, a chimpanzee she had rescued from Burundi more than 20 years ago (see the photograph above). When we found him and Jane offered him a banana she remarked, “I wouldn’t have recognized him, he’s aged so much.” After a moment she turned to me with a twinkle in her eye and added, “I think I’ve done a bit better.” I had to laugh and agree with her – she certainly had.

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Jane meets up with Uruhara after more than 20 years. “I wouldn’t have recognized him, he’s aged so much.”

Encouraged by the many media journalists who had been attracted by Jane’s visit, she began expertly tossing bananas through the fence wires. Both to protect the chimpanzees from predators – there are about 70 lions and numerous leopards on Ol Pejeta – and to prevent their escape, the 250 acre sanctuary is enclosed by an electrified fence.

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Jane expertly tosses bananas through the fence wires

Jane requested some privacy from the media and other observers because she wanted a moment alone with the Sweetwaters caretakers. Some of these dedicated and professional staff have been with Sweetwaters since the beginning and Jane wanted to hear from them how the chimpanzees had been faring, what problems there might be, to hear stories of the individual chimpanzees that she had known from many years ago and to share her thoughts and observations with them. To take time out to do this demonstrates the thoughtfulness and care for others that this extraordinary woman has.

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Jane shares a private moment with the Sweetwaters sanctuary staff to talk about the chimpanzees

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Richard Vigne presented Jane with an honorary chimpanzee adoption kit

We then proceeded to visit the last three Northern White Rhinos left on the planet. Kitili Mbathi had yet to see them, so was particularly interested in finding out more about their situation. Attempts are being made to breed new offspring, but the single male, Sudan, is 43 and beyond mating capabilities – his age is equivalent to over 90 years for a human.

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Kitili Mbathi meets Sudan, the last male Northern White rhino on Earth

I was astounded to see Jane Goodall appear, she had walked the 300 metres or so from Morani’s restaurant, where we were to have lunch, under the hot sun to meet Sudan. The woman’s curiosity and energy know no bounds.

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Jane also meets Sudan, and gives him an affectionate rub

During lunch at Morani’s PEGAS had the opportunity to discuss the project and what we are trying to do and hope to achieve. Jane and Kitili were both very supportive and hopefully we can cooperate closely to achieve results in various planned actions in the near future.

It was an honour and great pleasure to host two such positive, outspoken and yet modest advocates for wildlife conservation at Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

 

PEGAS rescues two chimpanzee orphans in Liberia – Part II

In late April PEGAS assisted Phoebe McKinney, founder of the NGO ISPARE, to rescue two young chimpanzees in Liberia from truly appalling conditions of illegal captivity (see Part I).

Jackson, renamed Guey, was living on an abandoned VW bus before rescue. (Photo: P. McKinney)

Jackson, renamed Guey, was living on an abandoned VW bus before rescue. (Photo: P. McKinney)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacksy, renamed Sweatpea, receives a back-scratch from the PEGAS manager in her bleak, filthy cage before rescue. (Photo: P. McKinney)

Jacksy, renamed Sweatpea, receives a back-scratch from the PEGAS manager in her bleak, filthy cage before rescue. (Photo: P. McKinney)

 

 

 

They were both rescued and relocated to a temporary enclosure at the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary, located in a patch of coastal forest about 40 km from Monrovia.

Guey and Sweetpea meeting for the first time in their new enclosure at Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary, free to run and play with another chimpanzee for the first time in their lives. Mbama, their caretaker, looks on. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Guey and Sweetpea meeting for the first time in their new enclosure at Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary, free to run and play with another chimpanzee for the first time in their lives. Mbama, their caretaker, looks on. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The Libassa sanctuary is not equipped to look after chimpanzees over the long term. As they grow into adulthood chimpanzee infants, who are friendly and unaggressive, become increasingly forceful and surprisingly strong. Rudolphe Antoune, owner of the Libassa Ecolodge and land on which the sanctuary is located, had witnessed a captive adult chimpanzee violently break out of a barred cage and knew that the wire mesh enclosure would not be adequate for very long. Even if a strong enough enclosure could be constructed to hold grown chimpanzees, the support was not there for long-term care, which needed a full-time manager, veterinarian and trained caretaking staff.

The only hope was to bring the chimpanzees to Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya. No other sanctuary in Africa had the capacity to accept them. The United Nations Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) was aware that there were many chimpanzees in Liberia in need, but they had been unable to find a solution.

Before leaving Liberia the PEGAS manager met with the Liberian head of the national CITES office and obtained his agreement that they would issue a CITES export permit for the chimpanzees, on the condition that Kenya would issue the corresponding import permit. Veterinary health clearances would also be necessary.

PEGAS also visited the Kenya Airways office in downtown Monrovia and spoke with the Cargo Officer about the requirements for transporting chimpanzees from Monrovia to Nairobi. Because of the Ebola crisis, Kenya Airways had suspended its scheduled Monrovia-Nairobi flight via Accra. We would have to wait for them to resume service, or use other airlines, which required changing planes and airlines in a third country, another complication.

As the complexity and difficulty of the task ahead became more apparent, PEGAS decided to visit the ‘Monkey Island’ chimpanzee colony, located near the Robertsfield international airport, just down the coast from Libassa. The misnamed Monkey Island contained over 60 chimpanzees abandoned by the New York Blood Center, and PEGAS was aware that plans were afoot to seek long-term care for them. Might those plans be able to embrace chimpanzees languishing in squalid, lonely circumstances around Monrovia? And might Guey and Sweetpea be the first to go?

Map showing the location of Monrovia and the chimpanzee islands in the red oval.

Map showing the location of Monrovia and the chimpanzee islands in the red oval.

The so-called Monkey Island actually consists of six islands in the Farmington and Little Bassa rivers, very near to the Atlantic Ocean. At the time of PEGAS’s visit there were 66 chimpanzees on the islands, but because of the lack of funds contraception had not been practiced for a few years and there were now more than ten infants under the age of 5 years to contend with, and more would surely be on the way if nothing was done. There was no wild food to speak of on the islands and caretakers had to bring food by boat, so allowing breeding was not a good idea.

Location of the LIBR chimpanzee islands. (Photo courtesy of D. Cox, Jane Goodall Institute)

Location of the LIBR chimpanzee islands. (Photo courtesy of D. Cox, Jane Goodall Institute)

The history of how the chimpanzees came to be on the islands is long and tragic. To summarize briefly, in 1974 the Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute of the New York Blood Center established a Laboratory of Virology (VILAB II) in Liberia for research with chimpanzees. They took over a defunct Liberia Institute for Tropical Medicine, which the Liberian government renamed the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research (LIBR). The New York Blood Center (NYBC) staffed and managed the LIBR in cooperation with the government from 1975 to 2002. Chimpanzees were caught in the wild and brought to VILAB II for biomedical research.

During the years of Liberian civil wars (1989-1996, 1999-2003), NYBC staff remained at the site and continued research activities and care for the chimpanzees, at considerable cost to themselves. This prevented the chimps from being slaughtered[1]. Research at the LIBR facilities in Liberia by NYBC led to a Hepatitis B vaccine and also contributed to the validation of a sterilization method that eliminated transmission of Hepatitis B and C and HIV viruses through blood products, so the chimpanzees deserve considerable gratitude for their sacrifices to science.

Since 1986, the research carried on in Liberia by the NYBC at LIBR using chimpanzees is reported to have contributed to the receipt by the NYBC of more than USD 500 million in royalties. Even with a stipulated provision in the agreement with LIBR that “LIBR will receive 5% of such royalty income as shall accrue to NYBC resulting in part or in whole from NYBC operation in Liberia”, LIBR was never informed about or received its share of the more than USD 500 million – about USD 25 million! The NYBC also signed agreements with the LIBR in 1999 and 2002, but after that time did not continue to use chimpanzees in research. The chimpanzees were gradually moved from the LIBR facility in Charlesville, about 7 km from the Robertsfield airport, onto the islands.

The NYBC had provided for the care of these animals in “retirement” on the islands, where they are safe from human predators, and local people are also safe from the animals, which having lost their fear of people can be dangerous. Because there is little wild food on the islands, the chimpanzees have to be fed by caretakers whom they have come to know and trust and provided with other care at a cost of about USD 30,000 per month. The NYBC on 5th January 2015 unilaterally announced that it would cease all support for the chimpanzees. Without concluding any formal discussion of the transition, NYBC ceased support for the care of the chimps on 6th March 2015. Since then, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Arcus Foundation have been providing funds to continue feeding the chimpanzees.

Joseph Thomas, with John Zeonyuway in the pick-up with food, two of the main staff in late April looking after the chimpanzees. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Joseph Thomas, with John Zeonyuway in the pick-up organizing food, two of the main staff in late April looking after the chimpanzees. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When PEGAS visited in late April 2015 the caretakers were taking food and milk to the chimpanzees, but because of a lack of funds the chimpanzees were being fed only every second day, which was barely keeping them alive. I joined a boat that had been arranged to take three visiting scientists from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, the USA, who kindly allowed me to tag along.

John Zeonyuway on the left, setting off from the dock with three CDC scientists to visit the chimpanzee islands. (Photo: D. Stiles)

John Zeonyuway on the left, setting off from the dock with three CDC scientists to visit the chimpanzee islands. (Photo: D. Stiles)

We travelled down the Farmington River for less than a half an hour until we reached Island 5. The chimps had heard the sound of the outboard motor and were eagerly awaiting their fruit, sugar cane and milk. John bounded out of the boat into shallow water and began distributing fruit from a basin. The chimps shrieked and hooted their happiness, and then dug into the food like famine refugees, which in a way they were.

The chimpanzees dig into the fruit basin with delight. (Photo: D. Stiles)

The chimpanzees dig into the fruit basin with delight. (Photo: D. Stiles)

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Each chimpanzee was also administered a measured amount of milk. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Each chimpanzee was also administered a measured amount of milk. (Photo: D. Stiles)

I was surprised at how self-disciplined the hungry chimpanzees were. There was no fighting, and no chimpanzee tried to grab the basin or jump into the boat. When the feeding had finished, we continued down the river past the village of Marshall on the right bank, and then swung to the left up the Little Bassa River past a long sand bar, on the other side of which I could see waves crashing from the Atlantic Ocean. We passed the opening to the sea and soon we reached Island 1. John and two assistants repeated the feeding procedure.

Chimpanzees waited in the trees for the boat to arrive. The blue barrel marks the site of where fresh water is piped to the island, as the islands have no permanent water source. The river water is salty from mixture with sea water. The water pumps periodically break down, and if they aren’t repaired quickly the chimps could die an agonizing death from dehydration. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Chimpanzees waited in the trees for the boat to arrive. The blue barrel marks the site of where fresh water is piped to the island, as the islands have no permanent water source. The river water is salty from mixture with sea water. The water pumps periodically break down, and if they aren’t repaired quickly the chimps could die an agonizing death from dehydration. (Photo: D. Stiles)

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Island 1a had infants, so milk was particularly important here. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Island 1a had infants, so milk was particularly important here. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

 

 

 

 

I could see that the islands would make a perfect sanctuary, if the funds could be found. One of the biggest problems with most chimpanzee sanctuaries was escape. Chimps are very intelligent and can usually find their way out of a fenced compound, if they are determined to get out. Sweetwaters in Kenya has periodic escapees, and on my visits to Tchimpounga in the Congo and Lola ya Bonobo in the DRC I learned that escapes were common – the tracking of one was in progress when I visited Lola.

Chimpanzees could not swim naturally, their huge torsos and relatively short legs made them sink like stones if they got into deep water. There would be no escapes from the islands.

Soon after returning to Kenya, Liberia was declared Ebola-free by the WHO. I met with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) veterinary and captive wildlife officials and discussed the possibility of bringing the chimpanzees to Sweetwaters on Ol Pejeta Conservancy. I assured them that the chimpanzees were healthy and were being kept in quarantine-like facilities, away from contact with any potential virus carriers. In another meeting I met with the head of the Species Conservation & Management Division and officers in the CITES department – KWS is both CITES Management and Scientific Authorities for Kenya. They were very cooperative and helpful.

I eventually managed to obtain an official letter from KWS approving the importation of the Liberian chimpanzees and informing us that we should proceed with obtaining the necessary permits to allow the import. I sent this letter to the Liberian CITES office and requested them to issue an export permit, assuring them that Kenya would issue a CITES import permit on the basis of the letter.

In late June, Jim and Jenny Desmond arrived in Liberia from Kenya, where they were temporarily staying after completing work in Uganda. Jim is a wildlife veterinarian and Jenny is an experienced primate caregiver, both of them having worked for years in many primate sanctuaries and conducting primate health research around Africa. Jim was now the Veterinary and Technical Advisor and Jenny was Consulting Director on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States. They had come to Liberia to work with the LIBR chimpanzees and look into the possibility of establishing a sanctuary for them. HSUS was vigorously leading a huge coalition campaign to find funding, including compelling the NYBC to resume support for the chimpanzees. To date, the crowdfunding site has raised an astonishing USD 232,500.

Jim and Jenny were very helpful in assisting getting the CITES export permit issued and obtaining an official health clearance letter from the Ministry of Agriculture. Jim prepared a document certifying that he had examined the chimpanzees and they were free of disease. This was all sent to KWS and PEGAS made an official application for a CITES import permit on behalf of Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Jim and Jenny were returning on 28th July to Kenya and offered to accompany the chimpanzees on their journey, so this offered a good target date to finalize all the paperwork.

In the meantime, I found out from the Nairobi office that the Kenya Airways plane flying the Monrovia-Nairobi route, which had now resumed, had quite strict dimension requirements for cargo shipments. We would have to construct transport carriers in Liberia that could meet the required dimensions. I communicated this to Phoebe and the Desmonds and they set about organizing construction of two carriers.

KWS then informed me that we would need an import permit from the Director of Veterinary Services (DVS), under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, before a CITES import permit could be issued. I wrote to the DVS explaining the situation and enquired how to go about obtaining the required permit. No reply.

There is no need to go into the details of all of the efforts made to obtain the DVS import permit, but the final result was that no permit was obtained before 28th July – in spite of KWS support – and no permit has been obtained since. The problem was no doubt the fact that after Liberia was declared Ebola-free, other cases cropped up. Even though it was virtually impossible that Guey and Sweetpea could be carriers of the virus, it was simply impossible politically to allow the importation.

The chimpanzees have been moved to the LIBR facilities in Charlestown, where they are looked after by trained staff. PEGAS reimbursed Phoebe McKinney for six months of care for the chimpanzees (May to end-October) and the construction of the transport carriers. The Desmonds have returned to Liberia to carry on their extraordinary work of improving the lives of captive chimpanzees, and they report that Guey and Sweetpea are like sisters now, enjoying each other’s company every day.

If Phoebe had never reached out to PEGAS that fateful day in March 2015, the two orphan chimpanzees would still today be living a horrible existence alone, one chained to a rusting vehicle and the other staring out of bars from a bleak chamber.

Sweetpea enjoying a little reading in the afternoon sun. (Photo: J. Desmond)

Sweetpea enjoying a little reading in the afternoon sun. (Photo: J. Desmond)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guey enjoys a banana, free of her chain. (Photo: J. Desmond)

Guey enjoys a banana, free of her chain. (Photo: J. Desmond)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s playtime for Guey and Sweetpea at LIBR (Photo: J. Desmond)

It’s playtime for Guey and Sweetpea at LIBR (Photo: J. Desmond)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] See the gripping film about ‘Monkey Island’ at http://www.vice.com/video/the-lab-apes-of-liberia.

PEGAS rescues two chimpanzee orphans in Liberia – Part I

Part of the PEGAS mission is to rescue captive great apes held in deplorable conditions and relocate them to a sanctuary. So earlier this year when PEGAS received an email from an expatriate working in Liberia asking if we could help save infant orphan chimpanzees in Monrovia, we arranged to go take a look to assess what the situation was. The expat sent photographs of a hapless 2-year female named Jackson that was tied up to a rusting VW bus wreck. She was being looked after by some policemen, but her situation was quite grim.

Jacksy before rescue. (Photos: Phoebe Mckinney)

Jacksy before rescue. (Photos: Phoebe Mckinney)

Jackson before rescue. (Photos: Phoebe Mckinney)

Phoebe McKinney, the American woman who contacted PEGAS, was working in Liberia to rebuild the primary education system there that was destroyed by the civil war. And now they had to deal with the Ebola outbreak, which closed the schools for a time. But by the time I arrived, Ebola was on the wane and there had not been a new case in weeks. This gave me the hope that Liberia would soon be declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization, which should allow the chimpanzees to be relocated to Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Ol Pejeta Conservancy. There is no sanctuary in Liberia. Phoebe had already contacted nearby sanctuaries, Tacugama in Sierra Leone and the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre in Guinea, but they had no space. Sweetwaters was the last hope.

Phoebe, an energetic, enthusiastic woman with a soft spot for primates (she has a pet potto, Frankie) had constructed with her own resources a fledgling sanctuary for monkeys next to the Libassa Ecolodge, about 40 km southeast of Monrovia, the capital. Being also an optimist, she had constructed a large wire mesh enclosure to hold young chimpanzees temporarily, with the expectation that they would be transferred to a more permanent home. She said that there were several captive chimpanzees scattered around Monrovia being held in appalling conditions.

The location of Libassa Ecolodge and the Libassa sanctuary

The location of Libassa Ecolodge and the Libassa sanctuary

An aerial photo of the Libassa Ecolodge, located in the lower right. The red circle indicates the location of the sanctuary. (Courtesy Libassa Ecolodge)

An aerial photo of the Libassa Ecolodge, located in the lower right. The red circle indicates the location of the sanctuary. (Courtesy Libassa Ecolodge)

A few days before my arrival, Phoebe rescued Jackson from the VW wreck and transported her to Libassa, where she happily played around inside the enclosure, free for the first time in a year of the metal neck collar. The collar had left a nasty friction wound on the back of her neck.

One of the first things I did while there was to visit Libassa and see Jackson, now renamed ‘Guey’, meaning chimpanzee in Kru, the local language. Guey was full of fun and I entered the enclosure and played with her for a while. She ran around tumbling and jumping and enjoyed herself as I flipped her in somersaults.

The chimpanzee enclosure at Libassa, fitted out with greenery, ropes and structures to climb and swing on. Sure beats being tied up to a rusty VW wreck. (Photos: D. Stiles)

The chimpanzee enclosure at Libassa, fitted out with greenery, ropes and structures to climb and swing on. Sure beats being tied up to a rusty VW wreck. (Photos: D. Stiles)

 

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Guey enjoying a mango in her new home in Libassa. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Guey enjoying a mango in her new home in Libassa. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

The PEGAS manager playing with Guey. (Photos: P. Mckinney)

The PEGAS manager playing with Guey. (Photo: P. McKinney)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phoebe and I next went to visit another 2-year old female named Jacksy who was being held behind bars in a squalid chamber that faced onto a littered alley. Jacksy looked stunted and I learned that she was fed mainly with biscuits and left-overs from the food hawkers on the street next to the cage. The Chinese woman who ‘owned’ her ran a beauty salon nearby. We met with Alfa, the caretaker hired by the Chinese woman to look after Jacksy. He seemed agreeable that we come back the next day to pick up Jacksy and take her to Libassa. This seemed too easy.

Jacksy behind bars. (Photos: D. Stiles)

Jacksy behind bars. (Photos: D. Stiles)

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We returned the next day, hoping to take Jacksy with us to Libassa, but now Alfa said that the Chinese owner had told him that she wanted USD 500 as compensation for costs involved in acquiring Jacksy and for upkeep. I told Phoebe that this was completely unacceptable, PEGAS could not be party to what effectively was ape trafficking. If we paid for Jacksy, the woman would be motivated to go out and get another infant chimpanzee. A long negotiating session ensued. While Phoebe went into the beauty salon to talk with the ‘owner’, I sat down to chat with Alfa to try and find out more about why the woman kept the chimpanzee. It did not seem to be a pet.

Alfa said that the woman had brought Jacksy from the forest herself in her car, he did not know from where. She had returned recently from a trip to China where she had attempted to sell the chimpanzee, but was unsuccessful. I imagine the Ebola outbreak had made selling animals from the affected countries quite difficult. So now she was willing to sell Jacksy at a discount because of Ebola. There were stories of villagers killing chimpanzees after they learned that they were Ebola carriers, another incentive to get rid of it.

Phoebe had no success. The woman stuck at USD 300 and refused to budge. Phoebe was willing to pay it, but I said that if she did I would be unable to relocate the chimpanzee to Sweetwaters.

I made arrangements to meet with the head of the Liberia CITES Management Authority and went out of town to the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) offices where Theo Freeman, the head, was located. He seemed very willing to cooperate and introduced me to some Wildlife Officers, who offered to accompany me the following day to confiscate the chimpanzee. Phoebe had already been in contact with the FDA and they had approved her keeping primates at Libassa. They were in the process of signing a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary involving the FDA, Phoebe’s NGO called ISPARE, and Rudolph Antoune, owner of Libassa Ecolodge, who was generously donating the land.

The following morning the Wildlife Officers informed me by telephone that they unfortunately were unable to come into town to conduct the confiscation and said that Phoebe and I should do it. During Phoebe’s lunch break we returned to the Oriental Beauty Salon to resume our efforts to rescue Jacksy. Finally Phoebe pulled her trump card and told the Chinese woman that she was holding the chimpanzee illegally and that if she did not release it we would return with the authorities to arrest her and seize the chimpanzee.

The woman spoke poor English, so she rang her daughter, who lived in Monrovia and who spoke better English. Phoebe repeated what she had said about the illegality of holding the chimpanzee to the daughter. The daughter translated to her mother in Chinese, which miraculously transformed her attitude. Now she was more than willing to release Jacksy. We told her that she could come any time that she wanted to visit Jacksy at Libassa.

As Alfa was removing Jacksy from the chamber of horrors, she escaped and scampered around in the street. I bought an apple and put it under the beauty salon sign, which attracted Jacksy.

Jacksy came to pick up the apple. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Jacksy came to pick up the apple. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfa grabbed Jacksy and placed her in the transport cage that we had brought with us. Some nice sweet bananas were in the cage, so she was quite content to gorge herself. Phoebe had to return to work so I accompanied Jacksy to Libassa in the car with a driver I hired.

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Jacksy being rescued and driven to Libassa. She quietly munched bananas on the drive there. (Photos: D. Stiles)

Jacksy being rescued and driven to Libassa. She quietly munched bananas on the drive there. (Photos: D. Stiles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Libassa Ecolodge has a wonderful Ivoirian pastry chef named Mbama who looks after the primates at the sanctuary. He has a knack with handling them. Mbama helped me carry the cage to the enclosure, where we sat it down outside so that the two chimpanzee girls could get acquainted. Mbama and I hit it off right away, as I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Côte d’Ivoire for three years and I could joke with him using Ivoirian French expressions.

Jacksy, since renamed Sweetpea by Phoebe, looks at Guey in wonder. Guey is no doubt the first chimpanzee that Jacksy has seen since she was snatched from her mother’s dead arms as a baby. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Jacksy, since renamed Sweetpea by Phoebe, looks at Guey in wonder. Guey is no doubt the first chimpanzee that Jacksy has seen since she was snatched from her mother’s dead arms as a baby. (Photo: D. Stiles)

My original intention was to leave Jacksy in the outer entrance enclosure for a few hours so that the chimpanzees could get used to each other, but Mbama said that this was unnecessary and just took Jacksy out of her transport cage and pushed her into the enclosure. Immediately Guey rushed over and began chasing Jacksy around.

Guey, who is bigger and more aggressive than Jacksy, chased Jacksy around when she was released into the enclosure. Mbama acts as referee. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Guey, who is bigger and more aggressive than Jacksy, chased Jacksy around when she was released into the enclosure. Mbama acts as referee. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

The two 2-year olds eventually settled down to share some mangoes. Jacksy is on the right. (Photo: D. Stiles)

The two 2-year olds eventually settled down to share some mangoes. Jacksy is on the right. (Photo: D. Stiles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phoebe and I later went to find another chimpanzee that she had heard about. We found the house, but the owner was not at home. We could see the adult female chimpanzee through an opening in the wall locked up in a cramped cage in the front courtyard of the house. She saw us and reached out an arm imploringly. We banged on the gate and a house servant came out to speak to us. The chimpanzee had lived in the cage for the six years that the house servant had worked there, but she did not know when the chimpanzee had arrived or how old it was. A male was living with it when the servant had first started working there, but it had died a couple of years earlier.

The lonely chimpanzee living in the courtyard of a Liberian senator. (Photo: D. Stiles)

The lonely chimpanzee living in the courtyard of a Liberian senator. (Photo: D. Stiles)

Phoebe subsequently established that the chimpanzee belonged to a senator in the national legislature, a well-known businessman. The senator would have to agree voluntarily to free his pet. The adult was too big to keep in the Libassa enclosure – adults are extremely strong – so I decided that I had better limit our first attempted relocation to the two young orphans. If that succeeded and the procedure was established, a larger group of chimpanzees could be rescued and relocated to Sweetwaters in future.

Part II to come

Baby chimpanzee seized in Cairo airport

Last Monday (9 February) a man from Kuwait nervously put his carry-on bag into the security x-ray machine at Cairo International Airport and prayed. His prayers were not answered as the security agents seized the bag and opened it. A frightened baby chimpanzee, hunched up into a ball, stared up at them.

The agents confiscated the chimpanzee and called Dr. George Michelle of the Egyptian Wildlife Services, an arm of the national CITES Management Authority, who is the designated wildlife trade officer at the airport. It is still unclear who made the decision, but the Kuwaiti trafficker was released without charge to continue his journey, and thus we will never know the circumstances of the attempted illegal trade. Where did the chimpanzee originate? Where was it going and for what purpose? Dr. Michelle sent the chimpanzee to the Giza Zoo.

Dr. Dina Zulfikar, an Egyptian animal welfare activist, declared to the Egyptian government on her Facebook page [edited], “As a civil society representative I inquire why an interrogation did not take place with the Kuwaiti passenger, why were national law and the international convention (CITES) not applied? I also inquire why a DNA test was not ordered, why also did this case of violation of laws and international conventions not follow normal procedures in compliance with the CITES Egypt statement to CoP10….? Transparency should be the policy of all Egyptian Governmental entities according to the law and the constitution, thus you are kindly asked in public to provide a statement about the confiscation and procedures taken. We care to follow, so does all the world.”

Will the Egyptian government comply with her plea?

The Giza Zoo is the only legal holding facility for seized, illegally trade wildlife in Egypt. The CoP 10 (10th CITES Conference of the Parties, 2010) document referred to by Dr.Zulfikar, stated that the Egyptian government recognized that it did not have an appropriate rescue centre for confiscated illegally traded wildlife, but that they would build one. They have not done this, so under what conditions is this poor baby chimpanzee being held? The photo below shows the deplorable type of cage that chimpanzees are kept in at the Giza Zoo.

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Photo: Dan Stiles

All facilities holding CITES-listed species must be registered and monitored by CITES-Egypt. The CoP 10 document (SC58 Doc. 23 Annex), which can be read here, states that all captive great apes held at these facilities would be DNA-tested and microchipped. If these pledges have indeed been complied with, the identity of the facility and/or African subregion origin of the baby chimpanzee should be able to be established by DNA testing of the baby.

What should happen in a case like this? Both CITES, in Article VIII, and Egyptian law, in Ministerial Decree 1150, call for prosecution of the offenders and either return of the seized animal to its country of origin, or placement of it in an appropriate facility. A cage in the Giza Zoo is not an appropriate facility for a baby orphan chimpanzee.

The management of the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya has written to CITES-Egypt to inform them that it is willing and able to accept up to 30 captive chimpanzees, as long as all Egyptian and Kenyan laws and CITES regulations are respected. PEGAS has offered to pay for their transportation from Egypt to Sweetwaters.

Why does CITES-Egypt not even have the courtesy to reply to our offer? Why won’t they free the captive great apes held in bondage in contravention of CITES regulations? Will CITES-Egypt just return the baby chimpanzee to the breeding facility in Sharm el-Sheikh?

DRC trip report: building alliances

The PEGAS Project Manager visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on October 12-24, accompanied for the first three days by Jef Dupain, Director of the AWF African Apes Initiative. Jef introduced the Project Manager to the president of Juristrale, a local Congolese NGO that is collaborating with PEGAS in the area of great ape trafficking investigations. Aided by a Juristrale assistant, valuable information was gathered about the source areas of great apes that are trafficked in Kinshasa (the capital of DRC), the trade routes and transport methods (see maps at the bottom of this post), the people involved and sample prices of the different species.

Wildlife dealer

Trafficking location on a main road, where middlemen dealers are protected by soldiers (circled in blue). Monkeys for sale are circled in red.

Accompanied by Jef Dupain, PEGAS also met with Cosma Wilungula, the Director General of the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation), which manages DRC’s protected areas and serves as the CITES Scientific Authority. The Project Manager briefed the DG on the objectives of the PEGAS project and received assurances of full cooperation from ICCN. The DG stated that he was committed to ending the trafficking of great apes and the illicit use of fraudulent CITES export permits.

Boma, a bonobo rescued in 2013

Boma, a bonobo rescued in 2013 and now living at Lola ya Bonobo

A visit was also made to Lola ya Bonobo where Fanny Minesi, daughter of Lola founder Claudine André, gave the Project Manager a guided tour of the bonobo sanctuary. Lola stands ready to provide long-term care for any bonobos that can be rescued from captive slavery.

The mission to DRC has resulted in a number of follow-up actions that will be announced in future posts.

Lola ya Bonobo's Fanny Minesi, pictured with Dr. Dan Stiles of PEGAS.

Lola ya Bonobo’s Fanny Minesi, pictured with Dr. Dan Stiles of PEGAS.

Map 1: Dealers indicated that the two main sources for great apes were the Mayombe Forest in the west and Equateur Province to the northeast, with Mdandaka being the staging point for shipment down the Congo River

Map 1: Dealers indicated that the two main sources for great apes were the Mayombe Forest in the west and Equateur Province to the northeast, with Mdandaka being the staging point for shipment down the Congo River

Map 2: The apes are offloaded at Maluku before transport to Kinshasa

Map 2: The apes are offloaded at Maluku before transport to Kinshasa

Congo-Brazzaville trip report: conference and sanctuary visit

The PEGAS Project manager attended the 14th Anchor Conference of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP), held in Brazzaville, Congo on October 6-10. The purpose was twofold: to meet people and organizations that could be useful to the PEGAS objectives; and to visit the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre, managed by the Jane Goodall Institute, to discuss great ape trafficking, assess the facility as a possible site for relocation of confiscated chimpanzees and learn about sanctuary operations.

Oct12_1The conference was largely a talking shop with many complicated, theoretical presentations of little relevance to what is actually happening on the ground in Central African forests. No one seemed to think it odd that not a single Asian government, NGO or private sector entity was a partner in the CBFP, nor were any Asians amongst the participants (except for one Japanese). Since Asian extractive industries (mining, logging, oil and gas) are causing devastating damage to Central African biodiversity, it calls into question the whole purpose of the CBFP. See Flying under the radar for a case study involving Chinese extractive industries in great ape habitats.

The CBFP, whose objectives include conserving forest habitats and biodiversity, while maintaining an important carbon reservoir, apparently forgot to include any partners from Asia. Asian extractive industries operate largely outside initiatives aimed at conserving biodiversity.

The visit to Tchimpounga was a delightful experience. Rebeca Atencia, the manager, and her husband Fernando Turmo, shared a wealth of information on the admirable work that they and staff are carrying out there. The centre’s 166 chimpanzees and about 20 mandrills are receiving the highest standard of care. Of particular interest are plans and preparations to begin a program of release into the wild of Tchimpounga chimpanzees. Three islands in the Kouilou River, which offer ideal forest habitat, are receiving chimpanzees that will undergo pre-release training to teach them how live off wild resources. Once they are Oct12_3ready, they will be released in groups in an area already selected in the nearby Conkuati National Park. Tchimpounga is also carrying out an effective campaign of creating awareness amongst the public aimed at reducing great ape hunting, bushmeat trade and the trafficking of orphans.

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