Four new rescues from Angola get a second chance at Africa’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary.

Meet the new chimps at Tchimpounga! The Jane Goodall Institute’s renowned
Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of the Congo just welcomed four new additions to our sanctuary.

JGI experts, in collaboration with our partner Wild at Life, orchestrated a complex international transfer of two adult chimpanzees, Tina and Januario, and two babies, Walter and Jose. The four newbies are receiving expert care—and a second chance to live a happy life.

Meet the Chimps

Dr. Jane Goodall says that “When you meet chimps, you meet individual personalities.” That could not be more accurate for this group. Here are their stories, youngest to oldest.

Walter is a charismatic baby chimpanzee. “He’s really confident with everybody, with everything,” says Dr. Rebeca Atencia, Executive Director of JGI Congo and head veterinarian at Tchimpounga. While being transferred overland from Angola, he warmed hearts by tapping on his cage and politely asking for food. While Walter is happy and social, he shows occasional signs of this past trauma. If he feels alone or ignored, he may grab his knees and rock back and forth—a self-soothing technique common among chimpanzees who were taken from their mothers at a very young age.

Jose is slightly older than Walter and tends to be more fearful of the world around him. When a caregiver opens his enclosure’s door, he tries to escape. Dr. Rebeca explains that “he doesn’t really understand from what” he wants to flee. Jose’s story highlights why it’s so important to combat the illegal trade of chimpanzees as pets and create culture change that values these animals for who they are, not what we want them to be.

Januario is as resilient as they come. Trafficked as a baby, he was kept in a welded-shut cage at a construction depot and taunted daily for at least 11 years. When Dr. Rebeca first met him, he had a broken arm and visible signs of trauma. But despite his horrific past, he’s adapting to his new environment faster than anyone could have expected.

Tina is a gentle, older female chimpanzee who was kept as a pet by a wealthy Angolan family. She was well cared for, but she was lonely. Chimpanzees are social animals, just like us. Being locked in a cage by herself was very sad for Tina. “The worst that can happen for a chimpanzee is to be alone,” says Dr. Rebeca. After learning about animal welfare in the United States, the owner’s son convinced his father to give Tina up so she could have a better life at Tchimpounga. The best thing for Tina, and all of the other recent rescues, is to be around other chimpanzees.

A Team Effort

Walter, Jose, Januario, and Tina wouldn’t be at Tchimpounga if it weren’t for partnerships and coordination. First and foremost, our partner Wild at Life is on the front lines of rescuing and protecting wild species. Their founder, Asli Han Gedik, not only found these four chimps but organized their much-needed care over many months before the transfer to Tchimpounga.

Such a complex international operation also required cooperation with both the Angolese and Congolese governments and CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Here too, our friends at Wild at Life played a key role. Wild at Life’s Asli Han Gedik and JGI’s Dr. Rebeca Atencia worked closely together. The pair coordinated closely with authorities like the Angolan Ministry of Environment and the Congolese Agency of Protected Areas and Wildlife to secure the permits necessary to move forward with the plan.

This successful team effort builds on a similar rescue last year, in which eight chimpanzees were transferred from Angola. Now that our newest residents are settling in at Tchimpounga, they join their predecessors and can receive the attention they deserve.

Expert Care and Integration

At Tchimpounga, our expert staff and caregivers look after the physical and psychological health of each chimpanzee, ensuring the highest possible standard of welfare. That’s why integrating new chimpanzees with the community is done with the utmost care.

For the babies, integration has been quick and productive. Walter and Jose were grouped together. After a brief quarantine, the two were introduced one at a time to a group of 12 other baby chimpanzees. The group, now 14-strong with Walter and Jose, spends their days outdoors in the large enclosure playing and climbing on their playground. Jose is in a much better place now. It will take time to deal with his trauma, but socialization can help him overcome his fears
and develop confidence.

Adult chimps take longer to adjust. That’s why the process has been slow and steady for Tina and Januario. First, they were allowed to view a group of adult chimpanzees from afar. Then they were introduced to other chimps slowly but surely. Januario’s first introduction to a friendly male named Bebo was important. Not only was Bebo the first chimpanzee he’d met since being taken from his mother as a baby, Bebo can protect Januario from aggression. Their group now totals six adults that spend their days together in a large outdoor enclosure. Januario can run and climb on the play structure—a big improvement from being welded into a tiny cage in Angola. Tina is more cautious, but interacts positively with the others. When the group shows sufficient bonding and comfort, additional chimpanzees will be introduced.

Why This Matters

Many illegally trafficked chimpanzees are taken from their mothers at a young age, which prevents them from receiving the socialization and development they need to thrive. Tina, Januario, Walter, and Jose are just four of the many chimpanzees who will be given the individualized, expert care and enrichment they need. With their arrival, JGI’s Tchimpounga Sanctuary is now home to 157 rescued chimps. Their recent arrival reminds me why I’m so passionate about our mission to provide life-saving rehabilitation to these wonderful animals.

Success stories like these motivate me to keep fighting to protect our chimps, and I hope it does for you, too. Dr. Jane Goodall reminds us that “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.” Your support fuels our efforts. When you become a chimpanzee guardian, you provide a home for these rescued animals, fund their care, and help us to fight against the illegal wildlife trade. I hope you’ll consider supporting this lifesaving work and stay in the loop as we share more updates from Tchimpounga.

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