Taronga In the Congo

Taronga In the Congo

Isn’t this one of the most amazing photos you have ever seen? I don’t know who looks more blissed out, Kimberly, one of our Taronga vets, or the young chimp cradled in her arms.

At the moment, Kimberly is at Jane Goodall’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Sanctuary that’s home to a number of ‘bushmeat orphans’. Young chimps like the one Kimberly’s holding are orphaned every year by commercial bushmeat hunters who kill the adult chimpanzees and sell the youngsters on the black market as pets or for entertainment.

Kimberly’s in the Congo to do health checks on many of the chimps and teach other staff how to perform vasectomies on male chimps that can’t be released into the wild so sanctuary staff can better manage the chimp population at Tchimpounga. Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Sanctuary is the largest sanctuary in Africa and is located in one of the Congo basin regions where the commercial bushmeat trade is having the biggest impact.

Although this young chimp with Kimberly looks very content, it has had a horrific start to life. Many of the orphans arrive at the sanctuary traumatised. Not only have they been taken from their forest homes, many of them have also witnessed their mothers or family members being slaughtered. To think that we humans inflict such atrocities on some of our closest living relatives on earth is terribly sad!

Taronga has had a very long association with the Jane Goodall Institute andMargaret Hawkins, Taronga’s Behavioural Biologist is also currently in the Congoassessing the psychological well-being of the chimps which have arrived at the sanctuary with the equivalent of post traumatic stress syndrome. Her work will help decide which chimpanzees can possibly be released into the wild.

Soon, Kimberly and Marg will be joined by a third Taronga staff member, Matt Green, one of our Project Officers who’ll put his skills to use helping design a new island sanctuary at Tchimpounga for chimps that can’t make the transition back to the wild.

Taronga’s also kicked in an extra $150,000 in funding which will help with the construction of the sanctuary, an upgrade to the quarantine centre and help develop an education centre which will cater for 2000 plus students each year, teaching them about these amazing primates.

It’s a huge job, but I am sure you will agree, just one look into the eyes of that adorable young chimp makes you realise it is all worth it.