We received an urgent call last week from Addax Bioenergy to say that a young, injured chimpanzee had been seen at a village close to their operations and that they were enlisting the help of the police to have the chimp confiscated and brought to Tacugama. After lengthy discussions with the community and the police, Addax were finally able to take possession of the chimp and arrange to bring him to the sanctuary. Named Nico, after the security manager who was heavily involved in securing his namesake’s transfer from the community, he urgently needed medical attention.
An exhausted Nico on arrival at Tacugama
Not surprisingly after his ordeal, Nico was not too happy with people – we could see three machete wounds on his back and his right arm was roughly bandaged. One of the Addax team had previously visited Tacugama and remembered some chimpanzee; he’d managed to cajole Nico into eating and drinking a little before the journey and get him into the vehicle but after a three-hour journey the youngster wanted nothing more to do with anyone.
Nico was not even willing to listen to Willie as we tried to cajole him out of the car
We decided to anaesthetise him immediately to ensure that we could give him the treatment he needed. Our major concern was for his upper arm and, on removing the bandage that must have been applied by a community member, we discovered a badly infected machete wound open to the bone, with maggots in his tissue and that the bone was broken. As we cleaned him and examined him closer, we also found gun shot embedded in his leg and hand.
The machete wound on his arm after cleaning
Two of the wounds on his back - he has a third at the base of his spine
We were going to need an x-ray to see how bad the break to Nico’s arm was and to determine whether the infection had spread into the bone. It was going to be another two days before we could get the x-ray done so in the meantime our priority was to give him a thorough clean up, make him as comfortable as possible and start fighting the infection with antibiotics. [Luckily Nico has arrived as Rupak, our current vet, has extra support from Dr Rosa - back at Tacugama for two months after having been our resident vet for 5 years.]
Trying to immobilize Nico's arm as much as possible
Willie makes him comfortable as he comes round from the anaesthesia
He continued to sleep for several hours, an important part of his recovery from the ordeal he's suffered
On Monday this week we were helped by a local hospital to take the x-ray and the good news was that there were no signs that the infection had spread into his bone and the break was not as bad as we feared with just a single break point and no loose bone shards. However it revealed yet another shotgun pellet.
The small bright sphere is yet another shotgun pellet embedded in Nico's body
With a clear picture of the damage, Rupak and Rosa could now plan to set the bone. They did a first cast in the middle of the week and it was then off for another x-ray to check the setting. They’ve had to leave a hole in the cast so that we can keep cleaning the machete wound. It finally looks as though the infection is starting to recede and the tissue is showing first signs of healing. The cast will need replacing again next week as this first one is a temporary one while we treat the infection.
Given the weak and exhausted state that Nico arrived in, we’re pleased so far with the progress that he’s been able to make. He’s building up a healthy appetite and loves the mangos that are now in season. Unfortunately the nature of his wounds means that he’s having to be regularly anaesthetised for treatment and this means his negative view of people continues. We have no real idea how Nico came to be captured but the gunshot pellets make us suspect that members of his family must have been killed, perhaps by bushmeat hunters, perhaps by farmers protecting their crops, even though gun possession is illegal in Sierra Leone. Addax have gone back to the community involved and sensitised people there as to the protected status of chimpanzees – one silver lining of Nico’s story is that we hope to increase the sensitisation of the local communities around his home with their support.
Enjoying some mango....
... and yet more mango!
We’ll keep you in touch with Nico’s progress – he’s still very vulnerable but so far… so good…