Recently, a young chimpanzee and baboon were confiscated by ICCN rangers in Badengaido and brought to our In-Country Director, Rosie Ruf, for initial care. Badengaido is a town inside the Okapi Wildlife Reserve that has grown exponentially as it is a collection point for miners to access illegal mines nearby.
The animals were brought to our station because we work in partnership with ICCN and confiscated animals need to be cared for until they can be released or placed in sanctuaries that have space for the animals. In the 1990s, several chimpanzees were confiscated at ICCN checkpoints in the Reserve, they were brought to our station for care. When they were big enough and a group could be formed, they were released on an island in the Epulu River near our station where they could be under our watchful eye. In recent years, we haven’t had any primate confiscations until the chimp and baboon, probably as a result of the explosive growth of Badengaido and the mining camps nearby as bushmeat poaching increases to feed the influx of miners.
When the two primates were confiscated by ICCN rangers, they were immediately brought to us because of our experience in caring for primates. Though we are not able to presently provide long-term care, we were able to provide antibiotics and heaps of generous affection before arranging a transfer of the two animals to Lwiro Primates via Virunga National Park air support.
Sadly, the confiscation of a single chimpanzee youngster means the loss of their mother and most likely the rest of the family members as chimpanzees will try and defend themselves against poachers. As more and more people travel to the mines, they rely on bushmeat for food. Once they manage to kill the adults, it is common to try to sell the young animals on the black market as pets. Wildlife trade is a serious issue and if not controlled, can have disastrous effects on wildlife populations. This is why the rangers and Congolese Army concentrated their efforts in closing down illegal mines.
Thankfully for the chimpanzee and baboon, ICCN rangers discovered them in time, and we are happy to report the youngsters arrived safely at Lwiro and are now receiving proper veterinary care and meeting their new families.