Hello everyone, quick greetings from me as I’m still busy with mending camp facilities, chimp integrations and some health issues. We almost lost Junior, a 5 year old from Baba’s group, last week. Thanks immensely to Drs Sorn and Andrew Routh for saving his life and helping out with other health problems in the absence of our resident vet, Dr Rosa. These volunteer vets are a god-send for our poor chimps at Tacugama and we are indebted to them. Dr Sorn’s kindly written a blog about their experiences here….. (the photos of Junior are not for the faint-hearted….)
Dr Rosa had a well-earned home visit and holiday due so an email advert went around the world looking for a vet to provide voluntary cover for the Tacugama chimpanzees and I replied. I’m Dr Sorn Routh, a Thai veterinary graduate living in the UK. Coincidentally Dr Rosa and I had worked together some years ago in Kalimantan, Indonesia taking care of orangutans. After a few more emails I left a cold and miserable UK in early April for my first ever trip to Sierra Leone and Africa.
After a week’s quarantine I took on more of the veterinary work and quickly got to know many of the Sanctuary’s residents and their characters – Dr Rosa was free to go!
In mid-May my husband arrived to spend 3 weeks at the sanctuary. Andrew is Chief Veterinary Officer with the Zoological Society of London and a bit of a wildlife nut. He happily split his week’s quarantine between watching the chimpanzees from a safe distance and wandering in the reserve watching wildlife (usually from a greater distance as the arrival of the rains had moved on many of the birds). Andrew’s stay saw him settling into the routine, helping out when needed and trekking into the forest.
On the Wednesday of his final week a torrential thunderstorm sent him back to the Sanctuary at lunchtime – a lucky thing. Junior, 16kg of lively youngster, fell from a rope and landed on the point of a broken sapling in the enclosure. Willie had seen the fall and within minutes had him in a den. It was obvious that he had been severely injured, a loop of intestine was hanging from the wound at the top of his thigh. Everyone rushed into action. Emergency surgery was carried out with Andrew and I assisted by Bala and Willie. Junior was in shock but with aftercare from staff, including Moses and Mamma Posseh, he survived the first night and slowly started to improve. He is now making a good recovery from a horrible injury. Even having survived this critical period there may be complications ahead but it has been great to see him already up and about, eating and, best of all, passing faeces (indicating that the replaced bowel is still working).
Junior in surgery..
Andrew left last weekend to go back to his day job. A trip to India for his work with vultures needs to be squeezed in before we’re reunited in early July in the UK as Dr Rosa returns to Tacugama next week.
It has been a great experience for us both. What we have seen of Sierra Leone we have found fascinating and the area around the Sanctuary is truly beautiful. We have been lucky to work with some very kind, caring and generous people and privileged to work with the resident chimpanzees, all with their own stories and personalities. We will take back from our time here many memories and many photographs. It would though be wise for the staff here to search me as I leave just to check young Gaura has not joined me as a more tangible souvenir of my stay at Tacugama!