Taronga’s Director, Cameron Kerr, also confirmed $150,000 in funding for Tchimpounga to Dr Goodall at Taronga’s Chimpanzee exhibit during her Australia visit which celebrates 50 years since her famous Chimpanzee research on the shores of Lake Tanganyika began and 20 years since she launched her youth environment movement, Roots and Shoots.
Mr Kerr said: “We’re delighted to have Jane with us again, in the latest chapter in a long partnership that began with our contribution to the global Chimpanzoo research project and continued with our joint involvement in Uganda’s N’Gamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary.”
“Not only is the Zoo contributing funds raised by our Taronga Foundation to Tchimpounga, which is the Africa’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary, but we are also providing expert advice on the ground, sending specialists in veterinary science, behavioural research and construction. One of our vets is scheduled to conduct over 60 general examinations and we’ll be looking at other staff placements and partner projects to help.”
Dr Goodall said: “With this partnership, we will be able to move faster towards the objectives for Tchimpounga, which include securing operational support for Chimpanzee rescue and reintroduction, building a new island sanctuary for chimpanzees that cannot be released, upgrading the original site as a quarantine centre and staging site for the release program, expanded law enforcement to stop illegal great ape hunting and developing an Education Centre catering for 2000 plus students per year.
Dr Goodall has now visited Taronga’s Chimps four times since 1997, updating Australians on the needs of chimpanzees in the wild, progress with the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) and developments with Roots and Shoots. During this time, many Taronga staff and volunteers have visited Africa to work with Dr Goodall’s projects and former Taronga Primate keeper, Debbie Cox, has been one of JGI’s most effective staff in Africa.
Tchimpounga was established in 1994 by JGI and the Congolese Ministerie de le Economie Forestiere (MEF) to hold 60 orphaned or rescued chimpanzees. There are now over 140 chimpanzees in care at the site 35 km north of Point Noire, Congo’s second largest city. The sanctuary landscape includes dry open savannah, densely wooded gorges, flood plains and mangroves. There is heavy bushmeat pressure to supply markets in Pointe Noir, but things have improved since the area was protected.
Taronga’s chimpanzee group is expected to return to their newly refurbished exhibit in coming months after the upgrade enabling the Zoo’s keepers to continue to manage the 17-strong group as one of best in human care anyway in the world.