Chimps Mend Each Others’ Broken Hearts

Written By: Kari-Lyn Danyluk, JGI Canada volunteer
Category: Great Apes

Falero is the newest arrival at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo. Orphaned at age two, Falero arrived traumatized, weak and depressed. He soon bonded with Chantal, one of Tchimpounga’s most experienced caregivers.

Falero gradually gained confidence, although he preferred to keep one hand on Chantal’s shirt at all times. He was kept apart from the other chimpanzees for three months while his condition stabilized. Once he was stronger, the next step in Falero’s healing journey was to integrate into the chimp community.

Falero

At the same time, a chimpanzee named Lounama was attracting the concern of her caregivers and veterinarians at a newly-created sanctuary on Tchibebe Island.Lounama

Lounama on Tchibebe Island

Sanctuary staff observed that Lounama seemed unwell; she wasn’t eating and was often very tired, resting on the forest floor but changing positions often to be more comfortable. The veterinary team brought her back to the main sanctuary for testing, and discovered a faulty heart valve that was causing blood to flow back into the lower chambers. Untreated, she would die of heart failure. Coincidentally, a team of primate cardiac experts were visiting the sanctuary. The cardiac team were amazed to see Lounama sit quietly for her exam, with no need for restraints. It was an emotional experience for everyone involved to witness the incredible trust that Lounama had for her caregivers that allowed the veterinary team to intervene with life-saving equipment.Lounama and Serge

Luonama with the veterinary team

Once her condition improved, Lounama was introduced to young Falero – and the pair have been inseparable ever since. Lounama adores Falero and treats him like her own child. Their relationship is helping Falero make the transition to spending his days in the lush forest canopy of the sanctuary.

Over the past several years, the Jane Goodall Institute has run intensive public awareness campaigns about the consequences of keeping chimpanzees and other primates as pets. The Institute is proud to report that these efforts have paid off. During 2015, there were no confiscations of chimpanzees in the Republic of Congo. Falero was confiscated in 2016 from a man who was keeping him as a pet. The man received jail time and Falero was transferred to Tchimpounga by plane.

Thanks to the generous support of our donors, Falero found sanctuary, and Lounama received life-saving heart treatment.

Photo Credits: Fernando Turmo

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