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.
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.
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.
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.
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.