Central African Chimpanzee Wins Fresh Start in South Africa
A young male chimpanzee that was one of the only animals living in the remains of a Central African Republic (CAR) zoo was transferred successfully this week to the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) -Chimpanzee Eden sanctuary, where he will eventually join established social groups in free-range enclosures.
Claude, who is approximately eight years of age, was flown out on a South African Defense Force C-130 cargo plane. He becomes the 33rd orphaned chimpanzee at JGI-Chimpanzee Eden.
JGI-Chimpanzee Eden is a member of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), which helped arrange Claude's transfer in conjunction with JGI-South Africa, Kinsgley Holgate's "All Afrika Expedition," Aquavision, United Against Malaria, the South African Defense Force and the Johannesburg Zoo, in association with the Born Free Foundation.
Claude had been kept in a small cage at the abandoned Bangui zoo since 2008, where he was brought food and water by volunteers from the French and American embassies. It is believed he was a former pet that had grown too large to handle.
The U.S. embassy contacted PASA for help, and began a two-year process to secure the necessary permits, travel crates and flights to move him to South Africa.
"Some transfers are quick, and some require tremendous patience," said Doug Cress, executive director of PASA. "This one took longer than any of us would have liked, but all credit to JGI-South Africa and JGI-
Chimpanzee Eden for not giving up. The important thing is that Claude is safe in his new home."
PASA actually identified three other chimpanzees in the Bangui region in addition to Claude that it hoped could be brought back to JGI-
Chimpanzee Eden as part of the same transfer. But when sanctuary manager Phillip Cronje reached the CAR capital, he found owners of those chimpanzees – including two at a Boali Falls tourist hotel – refused to give them up.
The CAR government was also unwilling to issue further export permits.
"Claude was always our main objective, and we were very happy to make this transfer successfully," Cronje said. "But we had to leave behind many other orphaned chimpanzees — all of whom were just as deserving as Claude — who could not get the clearance to leave, and that was heart-breaking. It was a very emotional experience."
JGI-South Africa assembled a unique team of veterinarians, chimpanzee experts, videographers, and aid workers to assist in Claude's transfer, and remains dedicated to providing sanctuary space for as many orphaned chimpanzees as possible.
"We are so pleased and relieved to be able to give Claude the chance at a better life," said JGI-SA executive director Margi Brocklehurst. "Claude may be far from home, but here he will have the opportunity to live with other chimpanzees in a spacious, natural environment that will allow him to grow up as a normal chimpanzee."
PASA was formed in 2000 to coordinate rescue and rehabilitation efforts among primates sanctuaries in Africa. For more information, please visit the PASA website, the PASA Primates Facebook page, Twitter, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.