Hello everyone – sorry for our extended absence from blogging – we’ve been through some significant downs and ups in recent months and unfortunately with everything that’s been going on we’ve not been able to keep you up to date with the blog. However we are back on line now and planning to stay that way and keep you all in touch with all our news. It will take us a few posts to catch back up with you….
Kouze reflects on recent news…
Most importantly for today is to give you an update on the chimps at Tacugama and tomorrow on our activities over recent months. In our last blog post we mentioned our concern that a possible seasonal recurrence of EMCV was giving us cause for concern; we’d lost Urgent unexpectedly in February. Sadly four more chimps died by the end of April: Bo, Baba, Jetti and Small Lucy. All of these deaths have been completely heartbreaking as there was no opportunity for veterinary intervention to save these incredible chimps. We were also very concerned in April with the condition of Babes, mother to Bintu and Basma, but she regained her strength and was apparently back to normal when in August she was tragically found dead in the enclosure. We have been liaising with PASA and advisors from overseas labs to try to clearly identify what we can do to fully identify and protect against the cause of these mortalities and are very grateful for the support that we have received. Given that our strongest suspicion is still EMCV, we have also embarked on re-vaccinating all of our chimps with vaccines sent to us by Taronga Zoo in Australia. Following the vaccination programme in 2009, we had no new occurrences in 2010. It’s an extremely challenging, stressful and expensive process to anaesthetise so many chimpanzees but with the best understanding currently available it’s our best defence.
The most amazing thing that we’ve been able to observe emerging from the tragedies is the importance of the chimpanzees’ social group. With the death of Babes we were extremely concerned for the well-being of the youngest of her two daughters, Basma, who is just two years old. It has been incredibly heart-warming to see how her “aunts and uncles” (who are completely unrelated) have stepped in and taken this infant under their care. We are carefully documenting what is unfolding before our eyes and so far feel very happy that young Basma will continue to thrive with the care that she is receiving from the group. At seven years of age, big sister Bintu is coping well and also ensures that her little sister gets some extra special hugs.
Basma with Uncles Philip and Kafoe
Basma in the centre with Aunties Julie (r) and Susie (l) and Uncles Kafoe (behind) and Sulleh (in front)
We’ve also squeezed in three new chimps even though we are struggling for enclosure space. Two were confiscated with the support of mining companies who had been offered the chimps on sale. We’ve been working closely with these organisations to break the historical expectation that employees at the mining sites would be happy to buy exotic pets and we’ve been getting good support so Eglo joined us in April and Bingo in July. Eglo has sailed through his quarantine and has now joined in our youngest group of chimps with Chippie, Benita, Samson, Delilah, Tompey and Kangari. Bingo still has a month left in quarantine and is progressing well now we’ve moved him on from his previous diet which included plenty of beer, biscuits and sweets!
Eglo on arrival
Bingo on arrival
Our most challenging of the new arrivals has been tiny Perry. Only around 10 weeks old on arrival he was found at the end of May in Port Loko by one of the few vets in Sierra Leone, Dr Gudush Jalloh. He was visiting the area with a World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) ambassador, Stuart Lindsay, a judge from Australia. They were informed about Perry being held and immediately followed up to locate and confiscate him – it was a tough challenge but they finally succeeded and rushed him to Tacugama as he was in a very poor state of health, dehydrated, emaciated and with a bad respiratory infection. We were really not sure if Perry would survive – he was far too young to have been separated from his mother (we understand that she was hunted and killed) – and for several weeks it was touch and go. Fortunately with dedicated care from our resident vet and Mama Posseh and extra support from IMATT, (the international military advisory training team) who loaned us a ventilator, young Perry has undergone an amazing transformation and is now a cheeky, noisy and lively character.
Perry on arrival
Perry showing a marked improvement after 6 weeks at Tacugama!
And even more so by early September!!
We also have a 4th new chimp since we last blogged. Early in the year we became increasingly suspicious of Mama Lucy’s increasing appetite and girth and realised that her contraceptive implant must have failed! On 27 March her son was born late in the afternoon to a very happy and relaxed Mama Lucy. He’s very close in age to young Perry so it will be fascinating to compare their development. Already we can see that Mama Lucy’s son is more mobile and physically confident than Perry and clearly has the advantage of starting his life within an existing social group of chimpanzees. It will be some time before we can introduce Perry to his own social group but we are trying as hard as we can to do as good a job as Mama Lucy is doing – she has turned out to be a great mum! We’ll soon be asking you to help us find a name for her baby.
Mama Lucy and baby son at an hour old
Our resident veterinary position saw a change of faces in April. Simona Papa returned to her native Italy after twelve months of dedicated work and we welcomed Rupak Khadka from Nepal. He joins us after completing a masters programme in Germany. We were also very happy to welcome back Rosa Garriga from Spain for a month at the end of May. Rosa was Tacugama’s resident vet for 5 years before handing over the reins to Simona. Rosa has been supporting our camera trapping project and visited to work with Bernie for some time as well as assisting Rupak with our EMCV vaccination programme.
Dr Rupak (l) checking on Zak with Dr Rosa as part of the vaccination programme
We’ll gradually bring you back up to date with news and pictures on how all of six of the chimp groups plus the new arrivals are faring at Tacugama. We’ve got some more great photos that we look forward to sharing with you. More news follows tomorrow on some more of our activities but for today we’ll leave you with a recent, sweet photo of Gaura who many of you have been asking about!