Tchimpounga

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Every year poachers in the Congo Basin kill thousands of chimpanzees as part of the illegal bushmeat trade. Typically, the hunters spare the lives of the smallest, confiscating them and selling them as pets despite laws forbidding such trade.

The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) works to end the illegal commercial bushmeat trade through education and awareness programs, community-centered conservation activities including development of alternate sources of protein, and policy efforts. But, until demand for bushmeat subsides, illegal hunting will continue. To help the youngest victims—the orphaned babies—JGI operates the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center (TCRC), a safe haven in Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo, where orphans who government officials have confiscated from the black market can get needed care and attention.

Background / Issues

The TCRC was established in 1992 through a cooperative agreement between JGI and the Government of Congo – Ministère de l’Economie Forestière (MEF).

Since that time, JGI has worked tirelessly to look after the welfare of the orphaned chimpanzees residing at the sanctuary. Most of the orphaned chimps living there were confiscated by Congolese authorities as part of their efforts to stop the illegal commercial bushmeat and pet trades. The rescued chimps are cared for at JGI’s TCRC, which is currently the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in Africa. Originally designed to care for 30 chimpanzees, today the TCRC provides sanctuary for more than 150 orphan chimps who can live as long as 60 years. The TCRC staff also cares for eight adult mandrills.

Key Project Activities

In 2007, to accommodate the unanticipated pace of growth and provide better accommodations and care to the resident chimps—many of whom have reached adulthood—JGI embarked on an extensive expansion and renovation effort.

In 2011, after three years of planning and hard work, the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) successfully secured the land necessary to expand the TCRC. JGI intends to expand the sanctuary by building supplementary facilities on three islands in the nearby Kouilou River. The islands will offer the chimpanzees a much larger, natural setting where they can learn, grow and build social bonds in a secure environment.

Click here to see a day in the life at Tchimpounga.

Highlights/Results

The 2007 renovation of the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center included:

  • Two new dormitories and enclosures that provide expanded living and sleeping space for the chimpanzees
  • A new secure vet lab that has chimpanzee-proof windows and doors and an auxiliary door to safely bring chimpanzees in for treatment
  • A new food storage and prep area adjacent to the main dormitory to create efficiency—cutting the need for one person to be fully occupied transferring food from a remote building
  • A much-needed water system so that all of the chimpanzees have continual access to drinking water in their dorms and enclosures
  • Researcher housing and office space to accommodate the needs of visiting researchers and JGI staff.

The facilities on the three islands, including Tchindzoulou Island, secured in 2011 will provide:

  • Nearly 100 times more forest area for the chimpanzees enabling them to run virtually wild and free
  • A controlled setting where chimpanzees can have access to more natural habitat, but can be closely monitored, receive provisional food, and receive veterinary care, if required
  • A reduction in infrastructure costs and maintenance as the islands create a natural boundary for the chimpanzees thereby minimizing the need for fencing and staff to operate and maintain the site; and
  • Improved and safer viewing opportunities for local residents and visitors once future education and ecotourism elements are developed.

Click here for video's of the construction on Tchindzoulou Island and the chimps that now live there.