Indonesian traffickers’ transaction method of selling illegal wildlife: Rekber

PEGAS has been monitoring online social media accounts for over three years, finding wildlife dealers who sell great apes captured in their forest habitats to the highest bidder. Dealers in Indonesia are amongst the most active of these ape traffickers, especially of the lesser apes (gibbons and siamangs).

The Facebook or Instagram posts of Indonesians are always in Bahasa Indonesia, the local language. PEGAS struggles with Google Translate to try to figure out what they are saying. One word, even in very short comments, keeps recurring when an animal is offered for sale: ‘rekber’, often with the word ‘wajib’. ‘Wajib’ is translated as ‘required’, but no translation could be found for ‘rekber’.

Here are many examples of both adverts and transaction instructions:

The fact that business PIN numbers are almost always given by dealers indicates that CITES Appendix I species – supposedly protected from commercial trade – are being trafficked with a veneer of legality.

 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
One day PEGAS got lucky when a big Indonesian wildlife trafficker gave a short tutorial on what ‘rekber’ meant and how it operated. The word is an abbreviation of ‘rekoning bersama’, which means ‘joint account’. There are several private rekber services comprised of individuals or companies that have set up bank accounts to act as escrow services. They make money by charging a service fee for the financial transaction (e.g. RekBer CeperzBank, ceperzbank.com; RekBer IndoBank, http://www.rekberindobank.info; MangRekBer, http://www.mangrekber.com).

Here is how it works: the dealer and buyer agree on a price, for example, for two orangutan infants, let’s say Rupiah 140 million (~USD 10,000). They go to an online Rekber service. The service cannot release funds to the seller (i.e. dealer) until the buyer gives the thumbs up. Then, (1) the seller deposits the agreed price into the account, (2) the service informs the seller that the funds are there, (3) the dealer ships the orangutans, (4) the buyer informs the service that he has received what he paid for and (5) the service releases the funds to the dealer.

A schematic diagram showing how RekBer works

So Indonesian banks are facilitating illegal wildlife trade, albeit without direct knowledge of what is being traded. These services are not registered as banks, which means that they operate largely on trust between the buyer and seller and the service entity. Regulatory steps need to be taken to ensure that Rekber services are not used for trade in illegal commodities, or for illicit financial flows in the form of tax evasion and money laundering.

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Ape Only Walks Upright After Spending 9 Years Stuck In This Cage

ELIZABETH CLAIRE ALBERTS wrote a wonderful story in The Dodo on Poco, one of Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary’s most famous residents. We reprint it here.

He might look different, but he’s the sweetest chimp — and loves to show off for visitors at his new sanctuary home.

Rusted metal cage
Chimp sitting on the ground at sanctuary
Chimp lying on grass at sanctuary
Chimp standing at fence of enclosure
Woman looking at cage that imprisoned chimp

Intrepid Saudi mountain climber and humanitarian visits Sweetwaters sanctuary: makes plea to stop chimpanzee trade

Raha Moharrak is not only a unique person in the Arab world, she is unique anywhere. She is the first Arab and youngest woman to have conquered the summits of the highest mountains in all seven continents – the Seven Summits – including Mt. Everest and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Speaking about her impressive success, she said: “I really don’t care about being the first, so long as it inspires someone else to be second.”

“I really don’t care about being the first, so long as it inspires someone else to be second.”

Raha was bitten by the adventure bug at an early age growing up in Jedda, Saudi Arabia. Her father, a successful entrepreneur originating in the poor south of the country on the Yemen border, allowed the headstrong young girl to pursue her interests and gain a good education. She has a degree in Visual Communication from the American University in Sharjah and is now pursuing an MBA at the Synergy University in Dubai, where she works as a graphic artist.

“I am an adventurer first and a graphic artist second,” she told PEGAS. But after learning of her travel schedule how she finds time to work is a mystery.

But adventure is not Raha’s only pursuit – she also seeks worthy projects to support. She picks each project carefully, ensuring that the cause she supports is a worthy one.

As part of her many interests, a concern for animal welfare led her to join the Middle East Animal Foundation in Dubai. A partner and friend of PEGAS, Debbie Lawson, also a MEAF member, introduced Raha to PEGAS’s work, which immediately raised her interest and curiosity. She decided to visit Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary to learn more about the plight of great apes and the illegal exotic pet trade that threatened their survival in the wild. She thought that perhaps she could help in raising awareness about the issue, which was little understood by the world.

My coincidence, a documentary filmmaker that PEGAS was working with from the U.S. was planning to visit Ol Pejeta at about the same time. PEGAS thought bringing the two together could result in producing an effective public service announcement (PSA). It worked out, and Colin Sytsma, the filmmaker, and Raha came together at Ol Pejeta in March 2018.

As many visitors do, Raha fell in love with Manno, the adorable young chimpanzee that PEGAS helped rescue and relocate from a private zoo in Iraqi Kurdistan to Sweetwaters in late 2016. Manno seemed intrigued with Raha and in an instantaneous meeting of the eyes a bond was forged between the two.

“He has these beautiful amber eyes. I can’t fathom how somebody could see that, shoot the mother, … and send the baby off to someone to purchase….”.

“He has these beautiful amber eyes,” Raha said. “I can’t fathom how somebody could see that, shoot the mother, … and send the baby off to someone to purchase….”.

PEGAS hopes that Raha’s message is listened to and heeded, especially in her part of the world where great apes are such popular pets.

Bo and Bella arrive from Guinea Bissau

It all started on 18th January, 2016, over two years ago, when PEGAS received an email from Gregg Tully, Executive Director of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance.

Gregg asked, “Can you help with this case?”

Attached was an email from Maria Joana Ferreira da Silva that began:

“My name is Maria Silva. I am a post-doctoral researcher working in Guinea-Bissau.

 There is a huge crisis in Guinea Bissau of captive chimps … that live in horrible conditions and need to be rescued.”

PEGAS received confirmation from Richard Vigne, CEO of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and Dr. Stephen Ngulu, manager of Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, that they would be happy to receive chimps from Guinea Bissau.

Maria Joana informed us that there was one particular chimpanzee, named Bo, who was ready to go. Bo had been seized by the authorities from a man who was trying to sell her after killing her mother for bushmeat. She was being kept at Cufada Lagoon National Park. They thought she was about three years old.

Bo, now around four or five years old, has spent the last two years at the Cufada Lagoon National Park waiting for relocation to Sweetwaters.

Bo has received many visitors and likes humans, but now she will have to learn how to be a chimpanzee.

Following on that initial email some hundreds of them ensued, along with Facebook and WhatsApp messaging and Skype calls, involving dozens of people – Maria Joana, Guinea Bissau national parks and CITES people, the Guinea Bissau European Union delegation (they had generously offered to cover transport costs), Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Department of Veterinary Service staff, Portuguese volunteer veterinarian Pedro Melo who took bio-samples from Bo, Hank Nephuis of the Biomedical Primate Research Centre in the Netherlands which analyzed the samples and issued a health report, and many other supporters who helped out in various ways.

PEGAS was at the center of this maelstrom of communications, which was hampered by the fact that Internet service in Guinea Bissau was spotty and the country was experiencing considerable political instability during this period, not to mention language difficulties (Guinea Bissau is Portuguese-speaking).

Later on another young chimp was added, Bella, a shy and sensitive female who found herself in the same painful situation as Bo – orphaned victim of bushmeat hunting and target of the exotic pet trade.

Bella, perhaps three years old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Due to various causes it took ages to obtain the CITES import permit, the
veterinary import permit, then the CITES export permit and finally the veterinary certificate of good health two days before shipping. PEGAS would like to thank in particular:

Maria Joana Silva, who pushed the rescue and relocation from day one to the successful conclusion.

Ms Aissa Regalla, Coordinator of Species and Habitats in the Instituto da Biodiversidade e das Áreas Protegidas (IBAP) (Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas), the Guinea Bissau wildlife service, who helped obtain the necessary paperwork.

Aissa Regalla of IBAP came to care a lot for Bo.

Pedro Melo, wildlife veterinarian, who flew to Guinea Bissau from Lisbon to take the samples needed for the veterinary tests, and who supervised the shipping from Bissau to Dakar and then ensure that the crates got onto the Kenya Airways flight from Dakar to Nairobi.

Helena Foito and Carla Da Silva-Sorneta, European Union Delegation.

Fai Djedjo, Guinea Bissau CITES Focal Point.

Richard Vigne, Stephen Ngulu and Samuel Mutisya of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, who were kept busy writing letters and emails for all of the permits and shipping documents required, and who carried out the transport from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Ol Pejeta.

Ramat Hamoud of Airfreight & Logistics Worldwide, who handled the complicated clearing of the chimps at the Nairobi airport.

After more than two years of work, Bo and Bella finally touched down on Kenyan soil at 5:13 a.m. on 26th April, 2018. Karibuni Kenya!

Here are a few photos of the arrival and transport to Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

KQ 513 landed at 05:13 carrying Bo and Bella across the African continent.

The entire trip, with transit in Dakar, took 18 hours.

I arrived at 06:15 at Kenya Airways cargo to find no one there, except two sleepy staff, who knew nothing about any cargo arriving from Guinea Bissau. Luckily I had the Airway Bill scan on my phone to show.

While the staff were checking their computer for information on the chimp crates, I walked out into the cargo area and found the crates right there a few meters from the office door.

Some time later Stephen Ngulu, Sweetwaters manager, arrived with Dr. Rashid, the airport veterinarian. KQ Cargo would not allow Dr. Ngulu to take possession of the crates without a letter from Ol Pejeta authorizing it. Richard Vigne, CEO, was in New York, so his deputy Samuel Mutisya rushed a letter to KQ Cargo by email.

Ramat Hamoud, the clearing agent, arrived later and began the laborious clearing process. We took the chimps to the airport animal holding facility for the veterinary formalities.

The doors were opened so we could see how they were doing (I actually peeked earlier in the cargo shed).

Bo offered me his finger, first touch!

Bo looked in remarkably good spirits after what must have been a tiring and confusing experience. And it wasn’t over yet.

Bella was a bit more subdued, but she came around later and became quite friendly. Her face had the clear color of a Central African chimp.

Bo had a mango to celebrate her arrival.

Bella had no food left in her cage, so I went to a nearby cantine and found the last three bananas. Bella scoffed two in no time, I gave the other to Bo.

After more than seven hours in the airport we left for Ol Pejeta. Ramat was still doing paperwork, but they let us leave.

The chimps didn’t arrive at the Ol Pejeta chimpanzee quarantine house until 5:30 p.m.

Unloading at the quarantine house, directed by Joseph Maiyo, caretaker supervisor (man in hat).

In the upper left hand corner of the crate tops you can see ‘Bo’ and ‘Bella’ marked

Clean straw for sleeping nests had been put in the rooms.

Bo checks out his new home.

While Bella munches bananas, Bo watches from the window. We hope they will get to know each other through the window.

The team, very happy to have new guests at Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

Bo and Bella will now enjoy five-star accommodation for the next three months in quarantine. Once out, we hope that they will be introduced easily to the New Group. They will join Manno, the young chimp rescued from a private zoo in Iraqi Kurdistan and brought to Sweetwaters on 30th November 2016.

Facial Recognition: a new tool in great ape illegal trade investigations

PEGAS has identified and was until recently monitoring over 125 social media sites that have posted 315 individual great apes (a minimum number) either for sale or already purchased. In addition, PEGAS has visited zoos and safari parks in several Middle Eastern and eastern Asian countries that are exploiting hundreds of great apes commercially, ranging in age from infants to old adults. They act as fee-paying photo props with visitors, entertainment performers or as simple zoo attractions when they get older.

From sale online great apes are exploited for many commercial purposes

Photo props when young

Entertainer when a juvenile

Caged up when older, which can last 40 years

All of the great apes online and a high proportion of those seen in the zoos and safari parks were obtained illegally, many stolen from the wild. All of them have been moved from point A to point B, and many have been moved to point C and D and beyond, as they are bought and sold for various money-making purposes. These apes suffer tremendously in these callous moves, which are done in part to cover up the fact that they were imported illegally into the destination country by the first buyer. The second or third buyer can show sales records to the authorities, but when asked for CITES, Customs or veterinary import documents, they just say, “Go talk to the importer”. That’s where it usually stops, as the authorities do not have the time or resources to go find the importers.

If these great apes could be positively identified by some simple, non-invasive technology, that could be the breakthrough that wildlife trade investigators have been dreaming of. Identification using DNA or microchips has proven too difficult and expensive to carry out on a large scale. An ape facial photograph, akin to a police mug shot, could be the solution.

Wildlife dealers and owners post thousands of photos of great apes, most of them recurrences of the same ape. They are seen on multiple accounts as they are shared. It is not easy to determine if the same individual ape is posted on multiple accounts, unless the photos are identical duplicates. A facial recognition tool would enable the positive identification of each individual, as long as the face was showing at a good angle.

Are these the same or different chimps?

 

If we can positively identify an individual ape from its photo, it will be possible to track apes from seller to buyer online, and even from seller to buyer in zoos and safari parks, if the seller posted online the photo of that individual. It will also be possible to track movements of apes in zoos and safari parks, which may signal illegal arrivals, departures and replacements. This technology could even be used for prosecutions, depending on its accuracy.

Dr. Anil Jain, distinguished biometrics professor at Michigan State University, and his team modified their human facial recognition system to create LemurFaceID, the first computer facial recognition system that correctly identified more than 100 individual lemurs with 98.7 percent accuracy.

“Like humans, lemurs have unique facial characteristics that can be recognized by this system,” Jain said. “Once optimized, LemurFaceID can assist with long-term research of endangered species by providing a rapid, cost-effective and accurate method for identification.”

Dr. Jain and postgraduate student Debayan Deb have volunteered to adapt the LemurFaceID methodology to chimpanzee faces. If that proves successful, PEGAS hopes that they can repeat it with an orangutan face ID application in future.

PEGAS is now working with dedicated wildlife conservationist Alexandra Russo, who has generously volunteered to lead the development of the ChimpFaceID initiative. Using a more advanced method than was used with the lemurs, titled PrimNet, based on Convolution Neural Network (CNN) architecture, the Michigan State team will analyze and test their technology on hundreds of chimp face photos that we are now collecting in collaboration with the Jane Goodall Institute, members of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance and others.

“I have brought together volunteers working at Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya, at Tchimpounga in the Congo, Tacugama in Sierra Leone and in the USA at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in Washington State and Save the Chimps in Florida to provide the photos,” said Alexandra Russo, nicknamed Allie.

Allie went on to say, “The Max Planck Institute provided photos for an initial test of the PrimNet system, but it needs to be further tested and perfected to achieve a higher rate of correct identifications.”

Although still in its initial stages, several organizations have shown interest in PrimNet for use in illegal wildlife trade investigations and for monitoring of great ape population numbers and distribution in the wild. We hope to be able to present an exposition of the application’s potential as part of Bio-Bridge Initiative at the 14th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Egypt in November 2018.

If the PrimNet technology works to the high 90s percent accuracy, investigators might one day be able to track an infant ape captured in the forests of Africa or Asia to a dealer selling it online in the home country to a dealer in the destination country and even on to the buyer. The photos, along with other evidence gathered in the course of investigations, could be used to arrest and prosecute the dealers, facilitators and even the buyer.

One day we may be able to positively identify chimp faces at point of origin, to dealer, to buyer.

Inside the cruel world of illegal chimp trading: How apes are stolen to order, crammed into crates then smuggled across the world to satisfy the whims of the ignorant and wealthy

Ian Birrell of the Mail On Sunday has published an article on wildlife traffickers that were arrested in Nepal last October. One of them, a Pakistani named Jawaid Khan, has been in PEGAS’s crosshairs for several months. Khan has been smuggling chimps out of Kano, Nigeria, for years. PEGAS brought the story to Birrell’s attention and worked with him on it. 

Ian Birrell, Mail On Sunday, 13 January, 2018

  • Traumatised animals are transported thousands of miles from their native lands
  • Chimps sold for up to £50,000 to wealthy collectors in Asia and the Middle East
  • Police have launched crack down on smugglers, arrested four men last week

RESCUED: The two baby chimps found hidden in a crate flown into Kathmandu

The crate flown in from Istanbul was filled with exotic creatures for collectors: tantalus and patas monkeys, golden and ring-necked pheasants, scores of parrots and several dozen pigeons.

The cargo quickly cleared customs and quarantine checks –thanks to a £4,400 bribe, say investigators – and was collected by a pair of local bird dealers in Kathmandu.

Little did they know they were being observed by a special squad of Nepalese police investigating a major international wildlife smuggling ring.

For also inside the crate – stuffed into a secretive middle section – were two infant chimpanzees, cowering in fear after being ripped from their slaughtered families in an African forest.

The traumatised animals had been transported thousands of miles from their native lands and were at risk of dying of suffocation. They could barely be detected hidden among the more humdrum birds and monkeys.

For these terrified chimps, barely a year old, suffering severe dehydration and shedding body weight inside their grim container, were prized assets in a barbaric global trade in great apes that is decimating the species.

Such creatures can be sold for up to £50,000 to wealthy collectors in Asia and the Middle East – but for each one seized from the wild, up to ten of our closest genetic cousins are killed by poachers to get the babies demanded by buyers.

The Central Bureau of Investigation team, acting on a tip-off from an informant, watched as the crate of creatures was taken to the nearby base of one of the dealers. There the dealers were joined by an Indian businessman and his assistant.

The police moved in and arrested the four men on suspicion of settling a clandestine deal to shift the animals to India, which shares open borders with Nepal.

Investigators suspect he could be a significant figure in the shady world of animal smuggling in which selfish crooks send baby apes in the most horrific conditions to collectors around the planet.

They wonder whether he might be the figure known as ‘Jawaid Chimpanzee’ in the secretive forums where illicit deals are made and amid the furtive chatter of traders.

Exposed: Jawaid Aslam Khan poses as an animal lover on Facebook but investigators say he is a key player in a cruel industry
[photo provided by PEGAS]

Investigators suspect that Khan, whose social media sites show him routinely clutching baby chimpanzees and other rare animals such as white tiger cubs along with rapid-fire guns, has become one of the key players in a cruel industry.

‘This guy’s name would pop up again and again,’ said Doug Cress, chief executive of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and former head of a United Nations initiative to protect great apes.

Great apes are among the world’s most intelligent and protected animals, and their sale is banned except from certified breeding centres. They have become a highly profitable part of the illegal wildlife trade, with baby gorillas fetching up to £200,000.

Unlike trade in ivory or rhino horn, however, this involves fast transit of live animals. Often they are drugged and crammed into suitcases or containers; one baby chimp was even discovered in hand baggage scanned at Cairo airport.

The buyers are rich families in the Arabian Gulf and Asia who often keep these sensitive and sociable creatures in solitary cages, dressing them up in children’s clothes then dumping, killing or selling them when they grow into more aggressive teenagers.

SHAMEFUL: Rich buyers often dress up baby chimps
[Photo provided by PEGAS]

Some have been taught to smoke, forced to wear make-up or simply beaten into performing the most banal tricks for their masters.

Many end up as props for tourist pictures, performing stunts such as boxing in animal shows or suffering miserable incarceration for decades in dodgy zoos. Some are driven mad, making them hard to rehabilitate if rescued.

There is also huge risk of spreading disease and parasites from animals evading quarantine checks. Experts fear scores of great apes are being smuggled each month, many dying in transit. ‘We are only just beginning to understand the scale of this,’ said Cress. ‘It is an incredibly brutal market in very fragile animals.’

This is why last year’s Nepal bust marks a significant breakthrough, since those usually caught are low-level poachers and traders on the ground in Africa, not the people suspected of running sophisticated global smuggling networks.

Nepalese investigators suspect Khan was also sending smuggled chimpanzees to Bangladesh, Thailand and several other countries.

Khan, currently held in Nepalese custody, is a familiar figure to those fighting the trade, such as Daniel Stiles, a Kenya-based conservationist who hunts smugglers. He has developed a network of informants and scans dark web sites and social media.

Stiles said Khan’s name cropped up in previous investigations – including one that resulted in the capture of traders in Ivory Coast last year – and in online discussions. ‘They talk about Jawaid Chimpanzee because he holds so many chimps,’ he said.

Bubbles: The chimp once owned by Michael Jackson seen painting

Khan has regularly posted pictures of baby chimps, sometimes in his arms, on his Facebook site as he travels the world. In one post, in May 2016, he replies to an enquiry asking if one of the infant apes can go to Pakistan, saying ‘why not’. Under international rules to protect wildlife, chimpanzees have the highest protection. Their export is tightly controlled. Chimps sent abroad must be bred in recognised centres of captivity and destined for non-commercial use, while all trades must be registered.

Stiles saw that Khan had posted a picture of two baby chimps in June last year on the site of a suspected Turkish animal smuggler with links to central Africa. He contacted Anil Jain – a biometrics expert and professor of computer science at Michigan State University who has been developing facial-recognition systems for wildlife – to help determine if these were the same animals seized in Kathmandu.

‘The scores indicate a high likelihood these are the same chimps,’ said Prof Jain last week.

Khan’s social media postings discovered by Stiles also show other pictures of endangered species –and guns such as a semi-automatic Heckler & Koch rifle, plus a clip of bullets. They reveal he makes frequent trips to Kano, Nigeria – a noted centre for wildlife smuggling where the shipment for Nepal originated – and has made multiple trips to Istanbul, the transit point. He even posted online a snap of an airline boarding pass between the two cities.

Other recent postings show giraffes and hippopotamuses packed into crates and lorries. There are images from Kano of wooden crates marked ‘Live Animals’ on a runway beside an aircraft – along with the message ‘congratulations boss’ from an employee of an African firm linked to the illicit trading of birds and bushmeat.

Many key smugglers run firms that also legitimately trade animals. This helps mask illicit activities, aided by corrupt officials who assist them to evade customs and conservation controls in return for chunky pay-offs.

A report being finalised by Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based think tank, will reveal the chimpanzee trade is worth tens of millions of dollars annually – although those capturing them earn as little as £36 for each animal.

‘This is a very well organised business,’ said Channing May, a policy analyst. ‘You need organisation and skills to transport these animals. Many traders operate front companies that manipulate documents to make movements look legitimate.’

The impact of their callous trade is catastrophic. It is thought that about 300,000 chimps survive in the wild, where they face threats from population growth, loss of habitat, conflict and poaching. They have been wiped out already in four countries.

Poachers usually wipe out entire families or social groups to grab one cute infant, selling any slaughtered creatures for bushmeat.

Adult chimpanzees are several times stronger than humans and can deliver savage bites. Some captives have their teeth pulled out, thumbs amputated to stop them climbing, or are hideously beaten with metal bars to control them.

One landmark UN study revealed that 1,800 apes were discovered in 23 countries while being trafficked between 2005 and 2011. But over the same period there were only 27 arrests in Africa and Asia – and some of those held were not prosecuted.

Yet there is a glimmer of good news.

The two Kathmandu chimps have become friends and are recovering well from their trauma in Nepal’s Central Zoo while experts await results of DNA testing to discover if they hail from Nigeria or another African nation for safe return to a sanctuary.

‘These guys may have a happy ending and hopefully live for another 60 years,’ said Mr Cress.

‘But sadly, thousands of other less fortunate chimps will die because of this vile trade.’

Will Chimpu and Champa, the names given to the chimpanzees, have a happy life? Nepal’s Central Zoo seems determined to keep them. The zoo is little better than the Abidjan Zoo where Nemley Junior, the chimp seized in the BBC sting, died. Ibrahima Traore and his brother Mohamed were out in six months after their arrest.

Report on Manno’s Integration

 

This is an edited, fascinating report prepared by Dr. Stephen Ngulu, Head – Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary/Ol Pejeta Conservancy Wildlife Veterinarian, recounting how Manno was integrated with the New Group. Chimpanzees are very territorial in the wild and each troop, or community, defends its home range against other chimpanzees to the death. A community does not easily accept a new unknown member, and in the wild strangers are more likely to be chased off or killed. The two communities of chimpanzees at Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary (SCS) were formed artificially from rescued individuals or small groups, but today they simulate closely troops in the wild.

Manno is a four-year old male chimpanzee rescued from a private zoo in Iraqi Kurdistan. He lived there alone for about three years with no companionship except for humans, therefore he learned nothing about chimpanzee social behaviour. When Manno arrived at SCS the night of 30th November, 2016, staff knew from previous experience that it was going to be difficult to introduce him to the New Group, especially as there was a transition of alpha males going on, where two adult males were fighting one another for dominance and leadership of the community.

Manno adjusting to his new sleeping quarters after arrival from quarantine

Manno was moved from the quarantine facility on 31st March and was put into the new chimpanzee house to begin integration. The first few days were a nightmare as he was nervous, restless and terrified. His fear subsided over the months that followed. He was gradually introduced to foster mothers. Progress was initially slow but we witnessed amazing success after we switched foster mothers [Akela to Jane]. Manno has since been completely accepted by all 14 chimpanzees in this particular group. Below is a brief week by week account of the integration process. [Some uneventful weeks have been omitted – Ed.]

31st March-6th April, 2016
Manno was transferred from the quarantine and kept separately. Akela was brought into a cage diagonally adjacent to Manno`s. He was observed to be curious albeit afraid to get close to touching distance of the separating half wall and grills. Lots of interest from Akela. No aggressive behaviour from this female was observed.

7th-13th April
Akela was moved to a cage immediately adjacent to Manno’s, interest was shown from both parties. Eye contact was established through the window grills but no physical contact.

14th-20th April.
Manno was moved to the main sleeping cages where the partition between the two was complete grill. Immense interest expressed by the foster mother Akela. Manno observed to be fearful.

21st- 27th April
Akela and Manno were put into same room. Akela made countless attempts to initiate friendship with Manno, spreading out both her arms and legs being a gesture to invite him to come closer, but Manno ignored her and would always run away whenever she tried to approach.

28th April-4th May
Akela continued trying all possible ways to attract Manno but no contact was observed. However, during feeding Manno would get closer to her with the gap between them being less than a meter.

5th-11th May
Akela succeeded to groom Manno’s foot briefly as he was feeding but he pulled away when he realized she was doing it.

12th-18th May
Akela was separated from Manno and Jane was brought in the adjacent cage, Manno avoided her, keeping a safe distance from the partition grill. Manno was put through an electric fence awareness training. This was done by fitting a mesh in the exit tunnel with a voltage of 4.2 kv. After close to ten minutes he came through the door and accidently touched the mesh getting a mild shock, he went back in the room for 5 minutes, came back through the tunnel but this time avoided touching any wires. [A grilled passageway connects the sleeping quarters with an outdoor fenced area. The fence is electrified to discourage escape. – ed.]

Jane was on the opposite side of the mesh and was clapping and doing some raspberries sounds to attract Manno`s attention but he avoided her, although at times he came closer but didn’t allow any contact at all.

On the 17th, both were put in the same room with an access to the tunnel, Jane positioned herself on the doors touching Manno anytime he came through the door, after close to four hours Manno got closer to Jane and remained when she touched him. Jane hugged him and engaged in active play/grooming for one straight hour; Manno observed to be extremely happy during this interaction.

The first touch between Jane and Manno.

19th-25th May                                                                                               Jane slept in the same cage with Manno for the first time. Bahati was moved in the adjacent cage to Manno, after a couple of minutes she groomed him as he sat close to the bars separating them. Jane was separated from Manno since she exhibited jealous behaviour when Bahati was interacting with him; this was meant to avoid the two fighting over him leading to a redirected aggression towards him from either of the females.

Bahati was introduced to Manno and immediately they engaged in active play for two hours taking breaks in between to groom him, after two hours together Jane was allowed to join but did not show any signs of aggression towards Bahati or Manno.

26th-30th May-                                                                                            Both females (Bahati&Jane) continued taking turns to play and groom Manno. He always ran to Jane for comfort when other chimpanzees were displaying and would be cuddled and groomed. The second electric fence training for Manno began this time in the tunnel that lead to the small enclosure, this was also meant to prepare him to be out in the small enclosure as well as seeing other chimps more with just an electric fence between them.

Akela joined them; she continued her efforts to befriend Manno and finally managed to touch and groom him briefly, this being a big step for Manno to trust her at last. The three females continued to interact with Manno. The next course of action was to allow the four Chimpanzees to have access to the exit tunnels that lead to the small enclosure.

The females took turns grooming Manno, here is Akela, the foster mother Manno initially rejected.

7th-  13th June                                                                                         Manno, Akela, Bahati and Jane remained in the tunnel while the access to the small enclosure was prevented by an improvised electrified mesh, which he (Manno) didn’t touch.

They spent a lot of time playing in the tunnel.

14th – 20th June                                                                                       Manno was for the first time allowed to access the small enclosure after the electrified mesh was removed. For the first day he completely refused to join the females into the enclosure, until Jane carried him on her back. They engaged in active play chasing each other around bushes. Tess was put in a cage adjacent to Manno’s, she tried to touch him through the bars but he avoided her.

21st – 27th June                                                                                               Tess (female) was introduced to Manno and in the beginning he avoided getting close. Whenever Tess made a move to approach him he ran away, but with time he gained courage and got closer to her, but no contact was observed.

28th – 3rd July                                                                                        Physical contact was established between Tess and Manno. She carried and groomed Manno a lot. Joy (female) was put in a cage adjacent to Manno’s and she tried to initiate play with him, but to no avail.

4th  – 10th July                                                                                                     Joy was introduced to Manno’s cage, she showed no signs of aggression, and after a couple of minutes she approached him touching him gently. They hugged and kissed each other. They sat on the sleeping platform where she groomed him for some decent time.

18th – 31st July                                                                                                   A lot of interaction was observed between Manno and the females (Tess, Joy, Jane, Bahati and Akela) all taking turns to play with him.

Manno has bonded with Jane and prefers to sleep with her.

1st  – 7th Aug                                                                                                    Chipie (female) was put into a cage adjacent to Manno’s, he was displaying aggressively towards her due to her small size, but she was so friendly putting her arms through the bars to touch him and was introduced to him on the fourth day when they both hugged each other with, Chipie grooming and carrying him a lot.

8th  – 21st Aug                                                                                                      Dufa (female) was put in a cage close to Manno, he displayed towards her, but she was very calm putting her arm through the bars patting his back gently, both played through the bars. Dufa was put in same room as Manno, they both engaged in active play immediately but Bahati was very protective pulling Manno away from Dufa.

21st Aug – 3rd Sep                                                                                     Amisero (female) was put in a cage next to Manno, she showed no interest in him in the beginning. She was physically introduced to him on the seventh day in his cage. Manno kept a distance and avoided her every time she approached. After some time Manno gained courage and approached Amisero, who tickled, groomed and carried him around the small enclosure.

Manno has become a favourite for grooming.

4th  – 10th Sept                                                                                             Niyonkuru (recently dethroned Alpha male) was put in a cage next to Manno, he was a bit aggressive towards the females but was calm after some time. He put his arms through the bars to touch Manno but Dufa went in between and tried biting Niyonkuru in what looked like protecting Manno from Niyonkuru’s unpredictable aggression.  

5th  – 11th Sept                                                                                             Niyonkuru was reintroduced to all the females before physically introducing him to Manno. This was done to calm him down after a spell of separation. He was a bit aggressive towards some, but after time he calmed down.

12th –  18th Sept                                                                                       Niyonkuru was introduced to Manno while he was in the company of all the females. This took place with the exit to the small enclosure opened to enable Manno to have an escape route in case he was attacked. Food was scattered in the small enclosure to distract Niyonkuru. Manno at first avoided him, but as Niyonkuru was foraging he approached Manno while stamping the ground with his foot and chased him in a playful way, but he (Manno) ran away.

25th Sep – 1st Oct                                                                                          Niyonkuru was playing a lot with Manno and was seen carrying him a few times. Roy (male) was put in a cage adjacent to Manno; he (Roy) started tickling him through the bars. We Introduced Roy to Manno while he was in the company of all the females, they immediately engaged into an active play that lasted close to ten minutes.

2nd  – 8th Oct                                                                                                  Romeo (male) was put in a cage close to Manno’s. Romeo was afraid of the females and avoided getting nearer, but was introduced to Manno while in the company of Akela, Jane and Bahati. Manno and Romeo immediately started chasing each other around the cage. Uruhara (male) was put in a cage next to Manno, and although he put his arms through the bars in attempt to touch and groom, Manno stayed away.

9th  – 14th Oct                                                                                                       We introduced Uruhara to Manno in the cage, but the door to the small enclosure was left open. Manno was in the company of all the other chimps except Kisa and William, the last two who had not yet met Manno. Manno stayed away from Uruhara, but a few minutes later he (Manno) approached Uruhara and started to play with his legs. They both went out in the tunnel where they played continuously for ten minutes.

William (the new alpha male) was put in a cage next to Manno. During this period Manno was for the first time released in the big enclosure with all the other chimps, except Kisa and William. He was very excited, all the females followed him all the way carrying him when he was exhausted.

Manno was finally released into the big enclosure (Manno circled in red) where he could interact with the whole community.

15th – 21st Oct                                                                                                    William (alpha male) was introduced to Manno while he was together with all the other chimps, except Kisa. All was calm and Manno was in the tunnel being groomed by Joy, when William tried walking towards Manno. Joy called an alert and all the females ganged up and attacked the alpha (William). [This is why the females were introduced first to Manno, in the hope that they would form a protection sisterhood from aggressive males. It worked. – Ed.] William was later seen to interact positively with Manno.

Kisa was put in a cage next to Manno, he initiated a play with him through the bars, and in the beginning Manno stayed away only to join him later where they tickled a lot. Kisa was finally physically introduced to Manno in the house with the door leading to the small enclosure wide open; this was meant to give room for Manno to escape when necessary. They started playing, immediately chasing each other through the tunnel and resting for a grooming session.

Manno is a normal part of the troop now after a year of integration.

Conclusion 

Manno’s Integration can be described as a process that was devoid of negative drama, aggression and rejection. This kind of positive integration can be largely attributed to Manno’s tender age and the valuable experience of the sanctuary staff in terms of their understanding of resident chimpanzee behaviour, group dynamics and social structure.

We expect that as Manno continues to grow and bond with his new family, he will sooner or later be exposed to group confrontations and dominance fights between the other males. Such scenes will obviously be a new thing to him and he may choose to get involved without suitable prudence. It is in such circumstances that he may occasionally get injured/bitten, but this is expected in any chimpanzee troop.

Manno enjoying a banana, so much better for him than the sweets and cigarettes given to him in the Duhok Zoo.