Chimp Stories: Making Friends

Written By: Hanna Smit, JGI Canada
Category: Great Apes

Over the past year we have welcomed several orphaned chimps to the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre. Each of these chimps came to us as a result of traumatic circumstances, but they are a resilient group. Under the careful supervision of vets and caregivers, George, Vienna, Kabi, and Benjamin are all doing well. They are exploring their new home, making friends, and getting into mischief.

The chimps ‘follow the leader’ on their daily walks.

Best Friends Forever

Every day, George, Vienna, and Kabi become stronger and more confident – and their individual personalities are starting to emerge. George, who has been at Tchimpounga since December 2017, is the most outgoing of the three amigos. He is fearless, and will try just about anything, but is still young enough that he remains responsive to his caregivers.

When Vienna first arrived at the sanctuary he was in a near constant state of anxiety. Gradually, he has become more calm and curious. Even so, he can have quite a temper when a friend or caregiver does something that frustrates him.

Kabi wondering where his friends went!

Kabi, the youngest and most recent arrival, looks up to Vienna and George and has found in them the support and encouragement he needs to adapt to his new life in Tchimpounga. He has been very brave since the beginning, carefully observing everything about his new surroundings and never venturing too far from his friends or caregivers.

Benjamin is slowly integrating into the Tchimpounga Sanctuary.

Benjamin

Having finished his quarantine period, Benjamin has recently begun to integrate with other chimpanzees. The staff knew that this wouldn’t be an easy process as Benjamin, kept illegally in a private home as a pet, has not had any contact with other chimpanzees for more than 14 years.

Because Benjamin is a strong adult male, he was initially introduced to Dipanda, a gentle and friendly male of similar size. The first step was to let them have contact through a fence, allowing the two chimps to smell and get to know one another while limiting physical contact. This went on for several days until Benjamin seemed less fearful and more confident in his interactions with Dipanda.

Unfortunately, when the barrier between them was removed, Dipanda immediately bit Benjamin, who cried out and did not defend himself. The chimps were immediately separated and the caregivers comforted Benjamin who was very upset by the experience. Thankfully, his wounds were superficial and no medical intervention was needed.

Benjamin will next be introduced to some of the smaller males and females at the sanctuary to help build up his confidence. One of the fundamental welfare principles for social animals like chimpanzees is the need for companionship and plenty of social interaction. The caregivers at Tchimpounga will be sure to find Benjamin a friend.

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