The Mandrill Release Program

Written By: Vern Johansson, JGI Canada Volunteer
Category: Great Apes

On the outskirts of Conkouati-Douli National Park, in the Republic of Congo, there is a small village called Nkola. The Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga team have visited this village several times over the years, working together with community members to live sustainably at nature’s edge. And yet, this is where the team found a male mandrill, chained to a pole, crying out. Local villagers are aware of laws against the possession of mandrills as pets. They also know enforcement of these laws is less strict outside the park.

The young mandrill had been left alone, chained to a pole.

The Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga sanctuary is  recognized for the rescue, care and rehabilitation of more than 130 orphaned chimpanzees. Less known is that Tchimpounga is also home to the Mandrill Release Program where these vulnerable primates are rescued and rehabilitated so they too can be released back into the freedom of the rainforest. JGI has successfully reintroduced several mandrills into Conkouati-Douli National Park and JGI staff are monitoring the animals’ health and movements.

One of the mandrills and her wild born offspring.

Some of the reintegrated mandrills have had infants since being released into the protected rainforest, a key indicator of the success in reintroducing the species to the wild. These flourishing families also help invigorate the forest through seed dispersal and habitat creation, which maintains the integrity of the ecosystem.

Mandrills are intelligent, social creatures as well as one of the most colourful mammals in the world. They are known for their mild disposition, and are easy to identify by their blue and white faces and brightly coloured rumps. However, these attributes also make them an easy target for poachers. Similar to the plight of chimpanzees, poaching is causing a major disruption to the mandrill species, targeted for the illegal pet and bushmeat trades.

A male mandrill in the forest, featuring the distinctive blue and red colouring.

Since being rescued, the young male found in Nkola has been named Dila, meaning “to cry” in the local Monokutuba language. Dila is being well looked after by the caregivers at Tchimpounga and after a short time in quarantine will be introduced to the group of mandrills currently at the sanctuary. These monkeys will eventually be released into a remote part of the national park, far from human communities.

The Mandrill Release Program is an example of how the Jane Goodall Institute is engaged in the important work of saving and protecting primates. Find out more about how JGI protects endangered species.

 

Photo credits: Fernando Turmo