Tom is a chimpanzee of about 30 years old. He has spent most of his life as a pet in a private home. Tom was rescued and arrived at Tacugama almost a year ago.
He spent his first months here in the quarantine section. Then he was transferred to a den close to some of the other chimpanzees. Here Tom could start to reacquire his chimpanzee skills and behaviors, which he had lost being alone for so many years, by looking at the others chimpanzees. Tom didn’t pay too much attention to the other chimps, but was very focused on people passing by the dens.
Later Tom was transferred to the night dens of “Gorilla’s group” to start his socialization process with his future family group. Gorilla is the alpha male of the group, followed by Zack and Salva. There are also two females in the group: Blama and Sunny.
We decided to integrate Tom in this group because of the small number of animals but also as Gorilla is a big but gentle chimp who with time could help Tom become a chimpanzee again. In the first step of socialization Tom was kept inside one den and the others were allowed to come inside during the day to visit him through a double layer of net. He initially was quite scared and often screamed and shouted during the day, but after few weeks the care staff were very surprised to see Tom starting interacting with both with Gorilla and Salva, grooming them through the mesh.
In the last two months, we have started the real integration, allowing Tom direct contact with Salva, to create a good alliance between them. We started the process with Salva as he, being a young chimpanzee, could help to show Tom how to play. The first day they met each other they were both a bit cautious and didn’t dare to touch each other and when they did, they both got a bit scared. But slowly they got to know each other and now, Salva and Tom play all day long. Once in a while Tom has to take a break though. He is an old man and not used to all this activity.
It is very touching to hear them play and laugh. Tom has wasted so many years of his life being alone in a cage, and finally, in his senior years, he can enjoy life with other chimps, like he was supposed to. In the next weeks we will be planning to start the integration with Gorilla. Hopefully Tom and Gorilla will create a strong bond, which is important as Gorilla is the alpha male of the group. Tom needs to be accepted by Gorilla as it will make it easier for Tom to be accepted by the other chimps in the group. We have to do the integration very slowly, but cannot wait for the day that Tom will be able to go outside with his group in the big forested enclosure.
We will continue to update you on Tom’s progress in the following weeks.