Today I was lucky enough to spend my time with the seven young chimps in the Nursery group. Unfortunately this year has been a busy one for the staff at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre with six infant chimps arriving at the sanctuary since January. After receiving veterinary treatment and undergoing quarantine, the Nursery is the next stage in the long road to rehabilitation for the young chimps who arrive at the sanctuary. During their time here these chimps learn how to interact and play with one another. The group is led by Lemba, a six year old female who arrived at the sanctuary in 2009.
Unfortunately Lemba contracted polio and as a result is paralysed in her legs from the knee down, however she hasn’t let this stop her and has found other ways to move around. When on the ground she rolls to get where she wants to go and she can outclimb most of the other chimps. By acting as surrogate mother, Lemba plays a crucial role in helping the other chimps recover. She comforts the young chimps when they are frightened or nervous and steps in to sort out disputes.
The other members of the group include Dunez, D’joni, Antonio, Zola, Anzac (who arrived on Anzac day) and JeJe. Dunez can always be found playing in the trees, while Djoni is always looking for a way to escape and find some bigger chimps to play with. Anzac, who is sadly missing an arm, is one of the more confident and independent infants and little JeJe, who will turn one in January, is the youngest in the group and still learning the ropes. He spends most of his time with his carer Crystelle and will occasionally get the courage to venture out and play with the others. Luckily all the other chimps seem to understand that he is very small and play with him gently. Antonio is finishing his quarantine period with Zola as his companion. He can always be found getting up to mischief and Zola, who is a very shy and nervous chimp, shadows his every move.
During the day when Lemba wasn’t busy keeping the group under control, she liked to spend her time going through my pockets, doing my hair (in some intersesting styles!) and trying to tie my shoelaces. Lemba is a really calm and gentle chimp and is a favourite with everyone at the sanctuary, both human and non-human.