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Avi Sivan - a tribute

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Avi and Talila Sivan have been at the heart of Ape Action Africa since its inception 14 years ago. Their drive and passion for wildlife has enabled the charity to become what it is today, one of the largest primate sanctuaries in Africa.


In 2002, following the sudden departure of the director of the project, Avi stepped in as director and with Talila at his side, they became the most significant supporters of the project. Their support enabled the charity to survive and grow, not only by working tirelessly for us, but also by providing an enormous amount of financial support.


Avi donated significant amounts of personal money to the project to enable us to meet our running costs. He also gave us significant gifts in kind, all of which provided a solid foundation to allow us to provide excellent care for the animals living in Mefou National Park.


The tragic loss of Avi in a helicopter crash in Cameroon has had an enormous impact on many people. We are not alone in missing his charismatic presence and leadership.


We are also missing the wise, calm driving force of Talila Sivan in Cameroon. The project will always have a special place in Talila’s heart, as we have in our hearts for Talila. Our thoughts and prayers are with her, her daughters and grandchildren at this very difficult time.


The project has come a long way under the guidance of the Sivans as we work hard to protect endangered primates in Cameroon, work that we are determined to continue in Avi’s memory.


I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support during this difficult time. We have not only lost our Director but also our friend. It is extremely important for Talila that we continue with our work here in Cameroon. All the staff of Ape Action Africa, Babs and myself will continue the great work that both Avi and Talila accomplished here. Many thanks to everyone and much love to Talila and her daughters.


Rachel Hogan




Lola rejoins her family group

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Little Lola the chimpanzee has been able to rejoin her family after six long weeks recovering from a broken leg.


No one witnessed the accident leading to the injury, but Lola’s carer became concerned after she and a few other chimps failed to respond when they were called in for the night from their forest enclosure. After much coaxing, the small group emerged from the trees but Lola was lagging behind. It wasn’t until she returned to the cage that it became obvious she was dragging her leg and in pain. Photos taken by a volunteer later showed that the other chimps had tried to help Lola back to the cage, particularly Janet who carried her on her back.


Lola was immediately isolated and kept warm and quiet, but unfortunately treatment was not available straight away. It is very difficult to find human doctors willing to treat primate injuries, but we were lucky enough to secure an appointment early the next morning in a Yaounde clinic, which opened their doors to us before their patients began arriving. The doctor and our vet team were very worried when they saw the x-ray  - the break was a complete fracture of the femur, high up near the hip.


In a chimpanzee, this kind of break is serious because it’s almost impossible to immobilize the leg effectively. Lola emerged from her anaesthetic with a bright blue cast from thigh to ankle and sought immediate comfort for her strange new situation in the arms of two volunteers who were assigned to care for her over the coming weeks.


Lola was kept as a pet for the first three years of her life, and although she is happy in her rough and tumble chimp group, she still loves the company of humans, particularly women. The novelty of boundless hugs went a long way to distract her from her pain, but it wasn’t long before boredom set in. Even with treats, games and constant company she longed to be free of her cast and began pulling at the lining and slowly unravelling its layers.


It was a relief for everyone when the cast was finally removed, revealing a well-healed bone. To help the introduction back to her family, Lola was moved to an adjacent cage so she could see and interact with the other chimps whilst she regained proper movement in her leg. She was overjoyed to be able to join her group back in the enclosure and was enthusiastically welcomed, particularly by special friend Miko who didn’t leave her side all day.


During Lola’s absence, the other members of her family had begun an introduction to two adult females, Toby and Billie Jean. Lola will now take some time to get to know these adults before the next stage of their introduction begins with adult male chimp Dixon.



Visit our photo gallery to see more photos of Lola's recovery.




Photos courtesy of Ian Bickerstaff and Chefor Elvis 








A new arrival brings change for our youngest chimps

Sunday, September 26, 2010


The sad pattern of destruction in Cameroon's rainforests continues with the arrival of yet another orphaned chimpanzee from the Dja Faunal Reserve in East Cameroon. After being taken by bushmeat hunters, Kwene was seized by government officials on a train bound for the capital, Yaounde, where he was intended to be sold illegally as a pet. Rachel and her Mefou team were busy managing our biggest ever re-housing project when they received word of the confiscation and temporarily shelved their plans in order to welcome him.


Happily, the little two-year old male was in good health. He bore familiar rope scars around his waist from being held captive, but his teeth were still stained brown from a diet of forest leaves and he had a healthy coat of hair. Named after a friend of the project, Kwene was delivered into the care of long-term volunteers at our sanctuary. He tolerated their company but was very wary and showed his mistrust by scratching, biting and boxing with his feet. His independence was a good sign for future integrations, but in the short term it was important to allay his fears. The volunteers spent two days with him in a quiet, comfortable satellite cage and gradually, Kwene relaxed and learned to trust them.


Routine medical tests were negative so Kwene was able to begin his quarantine with our youngest group of chimps who are also in quarantine: Kazi, Captain Song, Boubalay and Mboke. He is bigger and stronger than the babies so they met first through the bars of adjoining nursery cages. Song and Kazi showed immediate interest in the new arrival, poking their fingers through the gaps and putting their lips up to the bars, but were met with scratches from the suspicious Kwene.


Eventually, he softened and reciprocated their touch and when a full introduction took place, Kwene was overjoyed to have new chimps to play with. After months of rehabilitative care with volunteers, Song and Kazi’s own development took a great leap forward. They began copying Kwene with extensive climbing and self-feeding. They transferred from sleeping alongside their human carer at night to sleeping in the satellite cage with Kwene. The girls, Boubalay and Mboke, are several months younger so they still required overnight care but they also began showing more independence, which is great news.


Our team used this period of change to transfer the care of the group of 5 young chimps to Jean-Jacques; their permanent Cameroonian carer who will give them the consistency they need to grow into a strong family unit. Jean-Jacques was one of the lion keepers at Mvog Betsi Zoo and he joined us to work at Mefou with our adult chimps.  He is now thrilled to be caring for this group of youngsters:  “I really like to work with chimps” he says “because they are such intelligent creatures”.


The youngsters have bonded so well with Jean-Jacques that they have been included in our re-housing project and now spend their days in an open forest area once occupied by Miel’s group. At night they sleep together in a warm satellite cage, with Jean-Jacques just next door. Miel and her group have graduated to the nursery, where they are busy learning not to touch the electric fence! More updates on their progress are coming soon.


You can see more photos of Kwene's arrival on our photo gallery.


We have had an influx of baby chimps this year and they drink a lot of milk so inevitably, our milk bills are soaring.  If you are able to help us, please donate what you can on our donation page - every little helps us to keep the milk flowing!  


Donations from US taxpayers are tax deductible....just click on the USA button on our donation page and we will send you a tax receipt when required.

Thank you for your support.


Photos courtesy of Ian Bickerstaff, Chefor Elvis and Angela Mather 



Our chimps and gorillas on the move

Friday, September 3, 2010


The Ape Action Africa team is proud to have completed key stages of a complex re-housing project this month, the largest ever undertaken at Mefou Sanctuary. When finished, the project will move more than 50 chimps and gorillas to new enclosures within the park and 5 individual chimp groups will be merged into one. The objectives are to ease a housing crisis brought about by an influx of new arrivals and improve conditions for many of our current residents by integrating them into social groups.


The first phase of the move began in late June when adult chimps Billie Jean, Toby & Dixon exchanged living quarters with our eleven sub-adult gorillas. The moves were carried out over two days with impressive efficiency by our vet team. Moving primates is a difficult task as a balance must be struck between using light sedation to minimise stress, and having sufficient time to carry out thorough heath checks. In under four hours our vets sedated, blood tested, weighed and checked fourteen animals, transporting them carefully to their new cages where they woke under supervision on a bed of fresh leaves.


Tests showed that all of the chimps and gorillas were healthy and highlighted just how much some have developed under our care. Nine-year-old gorilla Nkan Daniel weighed in at 92 kgs - a far cry from his arrival as a two week old infant, small enough to be carried in his carer’s hands. The gorilla group have settled quickly into their new enclosure which was completed just three months ago. They love spending their afternoons in an enormous hardwood tree, chasing each other along its broad boughs and boldly throwing branches down at onlookers.


The second round of moves occurred two weeks later and saw our 15 young nursery chimps follow Billie Jean, Toby & Dixon to the area vacated by the gorillas. They now reside in the largest area of forest in the park, with some of its tallest trees. When released into their new enclosure, the youngsters ran in all directions screaming with excitement. Minutes later they re-grouped under alpha female Achi to explore the fence line and establish their boundaries. They were stunned to discover a group of Olive Baboons in an adjacent enclosure and spent much of their time establishing dominance by barking at their new neighbours.


Once the chimps were comfortable in their new environment, the next potentially difficult phase began - an introduction to adult female chimps Billie Jean and Toby. The young chimps have not lived with adults since being orphaned when they were infants so it was a challenge for Miko and Dbamba when they were placed in a cage neighbouring the females to establish visual contact. Dbamba screamed for a full minute, seeking refuge in Miko’s arms and it was several days before the two youngsters were brave enough to meet their neighbours. Billie Jean and Toby have spent most of their lives alone in captivity but they showed wonderful patience towards the youngsters, allowing them to approach and interact at their own pace. Over the past two weeks, they have been joined by Lissy, Loko, Djoum, Pipo and Ba’aka, and all are playing happily together. Next to be introduced is Daniel, Aidan and Janet. Once the whole group has met they will spend two weeks together in the enclosure before being joined by their final male Dixon.


The next phase of moves will involve our infant chimps, followed by more introductions that will see Billie Jean’s group increase to 23 members.Check out our YouTube channel for footage of the moves and stay tuned for more updates next month....sign up for e-news at the top right of this page and we'll deliver short bulletins straight to your inbox!




A new life for Charlos, ousted alpha male

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Charlos, our ousted alpha male chimpanzee, has started a new life at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Centre in the East of Cameroon. Aged in his mid twenties, Charlos is still relatively young, but lost his place as head of his group when it was contested by Wazak late last year. The takeover was not achieved easily. Charlos suffered repeated attacks that left him so injured and stressed he had to be removed from the group.


Now, Charlos has been given a second chance. Alongside one of our adult females, Katie, he will ‘parent’ a young, boisterous chimp group at Sanaga Yong, living with them in a large, forest enclosure. The move is great news for Charlos, but our team will miss him very much. Charlos has been with Ape Action Africa for over a decade and is much loved, but his relationship with others was not always positive. Brought up as a pet by a restaurant-owning family in Yaounde, he grew up alongside their son until he became too difficult to handle. They donated him to the Mvog Betsi Zoo where he shared a small cage with a little female chimp called Chinois and quickly learned to dominate her. In the restrictive, concrete surrounds he became frustrated and aggressive, grabbing at staff through the bars of his cage. He had to be fed through a small opening and keepers cleaned his cage in pairs for safety, even when he was locked away on one side.


Ape Action Africa finally persuaded the government to transfer Charlos and Chinois to our new forest sanctuary site and here he found peace. In a spacious, natural environment, affection replaced aggression and despite his short stature, the other chimps respected Charlos’ superior age. He soon settled in as head of the group, impressing staff with his firm but gentle approach.


Manager Rachel Hogan and Tafon Babila and his vet team accompanied Charlos and Katie on their long journey East, setting off in the early hours of 10th June. Both chimps were anaesthetised and health checks were carried out by our vet team before they were made as comfortable as possible in transport crates. Their bumpy, eight hour drive was broken up with plenty of rest stops to ensure they were traveling well. Arriving after dark in heavy rain, the team ensured the chimps were transferred to a dry, comfortable cage before heading off to bed themselves.


Since their arrival, both Charlos and Katie have settled in well but must spend three months in quarantine before being introduced to their new family. Rachel will travel back to Sanaga Yong in September to bring news of their introduction, so stay tuned for more news in the coming weeks!


Visit our photo gallery to see more photos of Charlos and Katie's departure




Two friends grow up....

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Ape Action Africa is home to more than 150 monkeys but there are two youngsters in particular who stole our hearts this year. Bitsy and Junior are Agile and Grey Cheeked Mangabey’s respectively and arrived in sad circumstances last November. They were both dumped anonymously inside the grounds of Mvog Betsi zoo in Yaounde, where they remained until discovered by zoo staff, clinging to each other and looking terrified.


Both babies were transferred immediately to our forest sanctuary where they were hand-reared and cared for 24 hours a day by a volunteer. This included 2 hourly feeds and careful regulation of their body temperature, which they were too young to do themselves. Bitsy was found to have a piece missing from her ear and was a quiet, docile infant who loved to suck her own thumb for comfort. Junior arrived with a swollen face and black eye and was prone to excessive vocalizations and attachment.



Over the past six months these two infants have thrived in our care and developed a lovely bond – preferring to play, eat and sleep together.

Their alliance proved useful when they were recently introduced to a group of older monkeys, helping them to settle in faster and come to terms with a new, unfamiliar hierarchy. Both have done well in the group and Bitsy in particular has made friends with the two other Agile Mangabeys.


Both are growing up fast, with Bitsy (left) developing the darker, leaner face of an Agile and Junior the striking upright brows typical of Grey Cheeked Mangabeys.  



Bitsy has made friends with two other Agiles in the group, but at the moment, Junior is the only one of her species in the park. It may be possible to integrate her in future with the small group of Grey Cheeks that live in the Zoo, but for now she is busy enjoying her new mixed family.  We are proud of both babies and look forward to the day when they are old enough to graduate to a large forest enclosure.  



Saved from back-room neglect: our new arrival

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

After 20 years as a World Heritage site, the Dja Faunal Reserve in Cameroon’s southeast continues to suffer losses at the hands of bushmeat hunters. Our latest arrival is the victim of this ongoing trade.


Little Kazi is a two year old chimpanzee, discovered by Ministry of Forest and Wildlife (MINFOF) officers in a village house on the edge of the reserve. His parents had been killed and he was transferred to a back room, tied down with a length of rope and largely ignored.


Luckily for Kazi the authorities discovered him early and still in good health. However the rope that restrained him had cut deep into his groin and the wound was badly infected. Our vet team got to work quickly with a course of antibiotics and stitches. De-worming treatment also took care of his swollen belly.


Quiet and confused, Kazi transferred calmly to our Director Talila Sivan who cared for him round the clock during his first two weeks and named him after a friend from the North of Cameroon. After settling in he proved to be a lively little boy and was soon able to join another of our recent arrivals, Captain Song. The two chimps are the same age and size and have loved being in each other’s company. They are also very attached to their new carer Zanga, who supervises their day-time play and stays with them throughout the night.


We hoped to be able to offer the boys a chimpanzee mother in Rocky - a 12 year old female who arrived earlier this year. She is gentle by nature but has never been with other chimps before, so we didn’t know how she might react. In their first introduction she showed little understanding of the boys’ infancy and no desire to protect them. Unfortunately she played with them as she would a much older chimp and became too rough.


The boys are now back to spending time with Zanga whilst we consider other options for their future.....keep watching for more news of their progress! 














A ruler's reign has ended....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Charlos, one of our largest and strongest chimpanzees has been deposed as alpha male.


Arriving more than a decade ago as an adolescent rescued from the pet trade, Charlos was introduced to a group of orphaned chimps that steadily grew in number to more than 20 individuals.


A strong but fair leader, Charlos kept his boisterous family in check for 9 years.  As its members became more mature, arguments were more frequent but were always swiftly dealt with.  The family dynamic became noticeably more relaxed after the birth of 5 infants in 2007.


It is normal for younger males to challenge the alpha in the wild and in recent months, Charlos began to experience attacks from four of the more developed chimps.  Our sanctuary staff watched helplessly as the attacks escalated and Charlos began showing signs of significant stress.  When the attacks became more violent and Charlos stopped eating, they had to make the difficult decision to move him out of the group and allow a power shift to occur.


Charlos’ defeat was a somber moment for those who have known and respected him, and marks the first leadership change to occur in any of the seven family groups in the park.  After several weeks of politicking amongst the remaining males, Wazak (pictured right)  has finally risen to take control.


After recovering from his attacks, Charlos has been moved to a satellite cage next to Billie Jean and her family, Katie, Toby and Dixon.  Katie showed an immediate preference for Charlos and spent so many hours sitting next to him through the wall of the cage that the two were finally introduced.  Not yet thirty years old, it is hoped that Charlos will have another chance to be part of a group and lend his wisdom and experience to other chimps who have spent much of their lives in human company, denied the chance to grow up amongst their own kind in the wild. 








Petit Max - our new arrival

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Many of the chimps that arrive at our sanctuary are bushmeat orphans and they are often sick and traumatized. It's rare to be able to say that our latest arrival is healthy and has been well looked after. Max is a two-year old male who was living with a local village family as their pet. His first owner was a French expat who sold him on to the family on the eve of his departure from Cameroon at Nsimalen Airport.


Max was loved by his new family and spent his days playing with their children and two dogs. A good diet helped him develop thick hair and solid body weight and at night he slept securely in his own box with a blanket. His owner realised that despite their good intentions, they couldn’t provide all that he needed, in particular a forest environment in a family group of chimpanzees. The father of the family therefore asked us to take Max into our care to ensure he would have a future with other chimpanzees.


Free from the fear and inhibitions that grow from mistreatment, Max was quick to adjust to his new sanctuary environment. He has responded well to our 24-hour, one-to-one care and unlike some more neglected chimps, Max recognizes his name, so he is now ‘Petit Max’ to distinguish him from our resident adult male of the same name. It also suits his small, but solid (and very hairy) stature. Petit Max is already very confident, and one of our most vocal residents. He doesn’t hesitate to shout back at the noisy, teenage male chimps who live nearby and makes some of the loudest happy noises we’ve ever heard when food arrives! Very soon he will be ready to join our infant chimp group, and we can’t wait for him to meet his seven new friends.



Petit Max is yet another reminder that chimps and gorillas are orphaned every day in Cameroon as a result of the ilegal bushmeat trade. If you would like to help us to continue to work to help conserve his cousins in the wild, and to care for the 94 chimps and 18 gorillas in our sanctuary, please take a moment to visit our donation page...thank you!

Helping Endangered Primates in Cameroon