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Orphaned baby chimp needs your help

Monday, November 16, 2009


It is six months since baby chimp Vicky arrived at Ape Action Africa and look at her now!

Kept as a pet by a family in a small village, Vicky arrived at the sanctuary in poor condition. It is not known how old she was when her mother was killed, or how long she spent in captivity, but she showed typical signs of stress and poor treatment.


Thin and puffy-eyed with dehydration, Vicky , had an oversized belly, swollen with malnutrition and intestinal worms. Her owner had restrained her with a very tight leather belt, which had cut through Vicky’s thin, hairless skin to expose part of her hip bone.




On arrival, she was treated for her wounds and intestinal worms and thankfully, began responding quickly. Around people, Vicky showed the all too familiar signs of trauma – panic, mistrust and a fear of being touched. Thanks to round the clock, dedicated care, she began to understand she was in a safe place and her spirit quickly returned. After only a few days she reacted with laughter to a small scratch of her belly and was soon demanding non-stop games and tickles from her carers. She even grew confident enough to bark at the male chimps nearby when they displayed and called to each other.

When the time finally came to be introduced to other infant chimps however, Vicky’s confidence was shaken. Although she enjoyed being with the 5 other youngsters, their behaviour unnerved her and she responded by being outwardly aggressive, biting and hitting the others before they could turn on her. Over time, Vicky has learned how to respond to the others and she has settled happily into life within the group, particularly with the help of little Ndele who has acted as her ‘big sister’.

Although still a very petite chimp, Vicky is now a healthy weight and her hair is growing thicker. Each day she leaves her night cage and takes a short walk into the forest with her new family and carers. Her days are spent in the forest, climbing, playing and exploring in a natural environment and little by little, learning how to be a chimp again.


If you would like to take action to help us care for Vicky and many others like her, and also help us to fight for the survival of her cousins in the wild, why not adopt an ape, a great Christmas gift!





Return to Cameroon from Equatorial Guinea

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Ape Action Africa has welcomed a new chimp to our sanctuary in Cameroon; an adult female all the way from neighbouring Equatorial Guinea.


We first learned of Billie Jean in July when a representative of Hess, a US oil company with a base in EG contacted us to tell her of her plight. Several days earlier, a grown chimpanzee had jumped into their compound and caused quite a stir amongst the staff. Nobody knew where she had come from, but Hess’ Country Manager told us it was clear she “was unafraid of people and was in fact quite sociable”. Later that day she left the compound and went to a nearby village, where she was greeted with harassment and stone throwing. She quickly retreated to the Hess camp where the staff, fearing for her safety, took her into their care.


A special cage was built to house Billie Jean, whilst options were considered for her future. The Hess staff recognised that her best hope was to find sanctuary at a wildlife facility, but with nothing available in Billie Jean’s home country, investigations led them to Ape Action Africa in Cameroon. Meanwhile, staff in the compound took a deep personal interest in Billie Jean and gave her plenty of attention. They were particularly impressed by her intelligence, declaring her “a very clever girl!” after she managed to escape her confines on several occasions to reclaim her freedom. This personal interest also led Country Manager David Kennedy to discover her history from a local expat businessman who admitted to having been her owner.


He revealed that Billie Jean was captured as a baby and sold illegally to a beach restaurant owner as a pet. During these years she was fed beer and cigarettes and used as entertainment for the restaurant owner and customers, but over time she became less cute and harder to handle. The expat businessman purchased her from the restaurant owner when it became clear that he planned to dispose of the chimp.


No longer forced to perform, Billie Jean enjoyed relative freedom in her new home and was treated with care. In this environment, she grew into adulthood, but as she reached full maturity, began to cause problems. Like most adult chimps she became physically strong and more insistent and began to express her newfound frustrations by breaking things and occasionally biting. Ignorant of the danger he was putting her in, the business owner decided to set Billie Jean free. She was released in the bush several kilometres away, but, being ill-prepared for living in the wild, wandered back toward populated areas, eventually finding her way into the Hess compound.



Thanks to the co-operation and timely approval of the Ministry of Fisheries and Environment in EG and their counterpart in Cameroon, permission was granted for Billie Jean to travel to Cameroon on a private flight funded by Hess. Met by Sanctuary Manager Rachel and vet Babs, Billie Jean was brought directly to our forest sanctuary, where she was given a health check and settled immediately into a large quarantine cage.




At around 10 years old, Billie Jean is friendly and gentle but very quiet, and will take some time to adjust to being separated from her human family. She has been slow to adapt to a chimp diet but is being offered a range of different food and treats and is showing a preference for yoghurt and guava fruits. During her quarantine period she is living near a small group of adolescent male chimps, giving her the opportunity to see others of her kind for the first time in many years.


Hess’ relationship with Billie Jean continues as staff keenly await updates on her progress and one staff member has made a personal donation in support of her new life in Cameroon. We have no doubt that without their intervention; Billie Jean would be facing a very bleak future indeed.


If you would like to help us care for Billie Jean, please visit our online donations page ....thank you!


And don't forget to visit our photo gallery to see the story of Billie Jean's arrival unfold in the photos of Ian Bickerstaff.




Out of Africa - Ernest visits Bristol Zoo

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Our senior primate keeper, Ernest Bongmoyong,  has had a three week training visit to Bristol Zoo Gardens.


Ernest’s trip to Bristol is the first time he has been out of Cameroon. The trip has been funded by an ex-volunteer  who believed Ernest deserved the opportunity to visit Bristol Zoo and gain knowledge and skills to benefit the project in Cameroon. As part of his visit Ernest also spent 3 days at Monkey World in Dorset.


Ernest, who has worked with primates for 11 years, said the trip has taught him a great deal. He said: “I only work with young primates, including tiny babies, so seeing Bristol Zoo’s family group, including the adult gorillas, is fascinating for me – it’s a whole new experience. Jock the silverback male is a very impressive creature.”


He added: “I’ve been shadowing Bristol Zoo’s keepers and learning all about gorilla behavior, diet and animal husbandry techniques, as well as gorilla enclosure design. It’s all important information that I can take back to Cameroon to benefit the primates we look after over there.”


Up to 80 per cent of the chimpanzee population throughout Africa has already been lost due to illegal hunting and the destruction of the forest for logging. It is feared that without major conservation effort all the chimpanzees and other apes in Cameroon could soon be wiped out.


Dr Bryan Carroll added: “Most of the primates at the Mefou National Park have had a difficult start in life, with many having been rescued by Park staff just days old and hours from death, after their parents have been killed by poachers. It’s a very different start in life to our gorillas and monkeys here in Bristol. Ernest’s visit is a great opportunity for him to find out more about how we look after our primates, and it is also a chance for us to learn from him.”


Bristol Zoo’s 11 year support for Ape Action Africa includes providing a UK base for the charity as well as funding, education programme and veterinary services support and advice on animal husbandry.


This has been a great opportunity for Ernest and Ape Action Africa would like to say a big thank you to everyone at Bristol Zoo and Monkey World who made the trip successful and welcomed Ernest to their teams.



Young gorillas get a new home

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A promise made eight years ago to a tiny baby gorilla named Nkan Daniel has now been fulfilled…fittingly in 2009, the Year of the Gorilla.


Rachel Hogan, Ape Action Africa’s Manager had vowed to her small charge that she would not rest until he was living in a large, safe forest setting that would replace the one he lost, along with his family. Last month, Nkan Daniel and ten juvenile gorillas woke up to find that the promise had been fulfilled.


The new enclosure is the largest ever built in the park and took almost two years to complete, with all work being carried out by hand. Our hard working construction team, led by Aloundo Obama laboured through good weather and bad to bring the project to completion, joined in the final stages by keepers and volunteers who painted and prepared the satellite cages. Vigorous testing (and re-testing) was then carried out to ensure the cages were safe and ready for ten very strong and enthusiastic young inhabitants.




Moving ten young gorillas is no easy task, and required careful planning and a very early start. On a single morning, each of the youngsters was sedated and given a thorough health check by vet nurse Babs and visiting Bristol Zoo vet Sharon Redrobe. The two carried out blood, EKG, ultrasound, and TB testing, before each individual was transported to their new cage. Rachel and keeper Thierry awaited each arrival and helped to settle them as they awoke in their new home. By early afternoon all ten were enthusiastically exploring their new and unfamiliar space, monitored closely by their carers. You can see them exploring the satellite cage in the picture to the right.


Three days later, a set of clear test results was received and it was finally time for the eager youngsters to experience their new forest home. With some ceremony, Rachel and keeper Apollinaire opened the doors and ten young gorillas knuckle walked their way to a new freedom. The group had been living in a small, enclosure that was one of the park’s original structures. Over the years it had become very degraded and due to its proximity to human habitation, had contributed to several serious illnesses. Leaving it behind was a significant and long awaited moment for everyone.


The enclosure was officially opened to the public by the US Embassy, whose generous funding made the construction possible. The entrance was decorated with flowers and palms and the ribbon was cut by Janet Garvey, U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon, before a group of guests that included several of the Embassy staff, the American military attaché, Cameroonian officials and the head of the U.S. Peace Corps program for Cameroon. The gorillas, excited about their new space and the crowds, watched from their side of the fence and guests celebrated at a reception held in our environmental education center.



The gorillas have wasted no time exploring and making use of their new home. After an initial investigation of the perimeter, they now regularly disappear into the cool, thick foliage. In the quieter hours of the early evening, just before dark, the air is filled with the wonderful sound of low, contented rumbling.










Visit our gallery  to see the gorilla move in the photos of Jo McArthur.


Above photos courtesy of Ian Bickerstaff, Jo McArthur and Pip Hughes.

Helping Endangered Primates in Cameroon