HELP-Congo : Rescuing young, orphaned chimpanzees
Protecting primates of the Congo
In 1989, Aliette Jamart, a French national visiting the Pointe-Noire zoo in Congo and Founder of HELP-Congo, was heartbroken to see chimpanzees living behind bars in filthy cages, dying of hunger and thirst. She made a promise: to get them out and return them to a life of freedom in the forest – a promise she has been working ever since.
The same year, Aliette began to carried a great vision to rescue young, orphaned chimpanzees coming from varied origins. Some were confiscated in the markets from poachers, who had killed the chimp’s parents for bush meat, some were obtained from private individuals who had purchased them as pets. Some others were simply dropped off at her door by donors who wanted to be rid of them.
Fortunately, in 1990, Aliette established HELP-Congo, an organization with a mission to safeguard the Congo’s chimpanzees and their habitat. The following year, HELP-Congo was also able to obtain an agreement with the Congolese government, which put at her disposal three protected islands situated in the lagoon of the Conkouati-Douli National Park. The orphaned chimps transferred to the islands even before a camp for the humans could be constructed. But she had always grander plans in view. Her ultimate goal was to release these rescued chimps back to the wild. For years, Aliette had to move heaven and earth to attain this objective. At the time, biologists, primatologists, and other scientists did not believe for one moment that reintroduction of captive chimpanzees was possible. Nonetheless, she managed to surround herself with other specialists (veterinarians, botanists and others) who helped her study the nearby forest in –collared and followed almost daily for yreardetail in order to establish a release protocol.
To date, a total of 100 chimpanzees have been rescued by HELP-Congo, all orphaned as a result of poaching and illegal trade. Many of them showed up in deplorable condition, sometimes dying only a few days after their arrival. Some of the apes have been so traumatized or are suffering from such great physical disabilities that they are not suitable for release and will need to continue to live on the sanctuary islands. But nearly 40 chimpanzees were eventually freed into the wilds of the Conkouati-Douli National Park
The first release of orphaned chimpanzees took place in 1990, and four more released followed over the next five years. Many of the individual chimps were radio-collared and followed almost daily for years by teams of dedicated trackers, to observe how the former orphans were learning to adjust to life back in nature. A major victory came when rehabilitated females began to mate and give birth in the wild: 2003 was a banner year, when four babies were born to mothers who had been rescued and released by HELP. Many more are to come.
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