West African Nations - 2012

National Chimpanzee Reserve

One of the most heartwarming and yet pitiful to the point of tears places we visited was the National Chimpanzee Reserve. Here work a score or more men and women trying to prevent a genocide of the country’s resident chimpanzees. Against the backdrop of human hunger creating a big poaching problem, the rapid destruction of the forests in the country, a cultural practice of taking baby chimps away from their mothers (often killing the mothers to do so) to make the babies pets until they outgrow their cute and docile stage, and virtually no support from government, these dedicated people attempt rescue these chimp babies to rehabilitate them to be returned to the wild--the swiftly disappearing wild at that. They go through neighborhoods and try to reclaim these “pets” to put them in the reserve. Then they put the chimps through a five-step rehab program to fit them for living free again. All the while they are trying to protect their charges as well as the still wild chimps from ever-increasing poaching. Young chimps are mothered by the staff until they reach an age where they would be safe turned loose with the unhabituated adults.

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