Eusebio is one of the oldest chimpanzees at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage. He came to us in 2000 from Chile, where he had lived alone for years at a zoo in Santiago, and he was 24 years of age when he arrived. His release had been leveraged by Carlos and Elba Munoz, founders of the Siglo XXI Primate Sanctuary, and they traveled all the way to Chimfunshi to make sure he settled in well.
But nine years down the line, we noticed that Eusebio was beginning to show his age. He seemed to have slowed down in his walking, and although he still had a good appetite, he seemed to be losing weight. Due to age, his 33-year old skin tears for nothing, leaving him with cuts and scratches on his body. The bachelor group he lives in took note of this fact, and Eusebio had become an easy target for the younger chimpanzees to steal his food and display at him.
It was therefore decided that it would be a good idea to start Eusebio on a vitamin boost. He loves the new treats and he looks forward to them daily. Yet, all the extra food and vitamins never seemed to make a difference in his appearance. In fact, Eusebio was starting to look old and the worse for wear and he had a couple of really bad cuts. It seemed time to move him. So we decided to take him from the seven-acre bachelor enclosure and put him in Sandy’s old cage near the Siddle house.
But how do you move a 33-year old chimpanzee? Carefully, as it turns out. Innocent Mulenga, who is trained in anesthesia and handles our day-to-day veterinary care, read the instructions on the drug we where going to give to Eusebio to knock him out. Checking our records we noticed that the last time Eusebio was darted we had to use almost three times the normal amount before it took any affect on him. Not happy about this, Innocent injected Eusebio with the standard amount, which should have taken no more than 20 minutes to take effect. One hour later, Eusebio still sat happily on top of the feeding table, enjoying the attention. A second dose was given and still no affect. We were worried about injecting him again so we thought it was best for Dr. Emmanuel Chitambala, the local Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) veterinarian from Chingola, to be called in.
When Dr. Chitambala arrived the next day, we informed him as to Eusebio’s track record on the drugs. Dr. Chitambala smiled and said, “You must have done something wrong.” Not wanting to disagree with the vet, we just stood by and watched as he injected Eusebio. Waiting quietly for signs that the drug had taken effect, it was the Doctor who then began to look worried, as nothing happened after half an hour. Not happy, he injected Eusebio once again and waited, but only after the fourth injection did Eusebio finely doze off. Moving him to his new night cage was the easy part. Dr. Chitambala cleaned up his sores, the biggest being under his testicles. Darting chimpanzees late afternoon is never very good as it is not possible to keep an eye on them overnight. Early the following morning I checked on Eusebio who was curled under his new blanket. Looking up he greeting me like a long lost friend. This made me feel good knowing that he was OK.
Over the last few days Eusebio has grown used to his new home he has also seen that his night cage is facing the food storage room. Using the humans has its rewarding points – his calls out to them, demanding food when someone enters the storage room, and he nearly always gets something. I am happy to say that he has now picked up weight and is looking good!
The Chimfunshi Education Center comes alive each year with annual visit of Dr. Mark Bodamer from America and his students from Gonzaga University. This year, Dr. Bill Ettinger and many more students joined him. The sounds of laughter and excitement can be heard echoing throughout. We hope that they all enjoy their stay and leave with many good and exciting memories of the chimpanzees and humans.
During their stay it has always been planned that many of the Zambian international schools arrange to have their Grade 5 students visit Chimfunshi. Simba School from Ndola was the first school to arrive this year, bringing with them 32 children and four adults. Innocent put together an education program for the children, and the children are split into groups and each group has two American students as their leader. This allows each child to have an older person to help out should a problem or a need arise. Innocent talks to the children about the chimpanzees, the children spend a morning sitting in front of the chimpanzees studying them; he then guides them through the surrounding forest, teaching them about trees and the creatures that live in the forest. In the afternoons, the children are taken to the football field on our open flood plain where relaxing games are played. After dinner there is story-telling and singing as we all sit around the campfire.
Having raised money while back home in the States Mark and his team arrange and pay for a few underprivileged local schools from around the area to come and spend a couple of nights at Chimfunshi. Between 12 and 15 children are chosen from each school. Mark and a couple of his students then collect the children and bring them to our Chimfunshi Education Center. Some of these local children barely get a meal a day, so coming here and being offered three meals a day is a big excitement in and of itself, as well as the opportunity for a shower and to sleep in their own bed. Watching a video is something small to us but to them some thing they will never forget — especially if they are in the video! Many of the local children are not as keen to wander through the forest as they live in the surrounding bush areas and for them the opportunity to sit in front of a TV and watch a video is much more exciting. Each evening is highlighted with amazing singing and dancing.
The 7-kilometer road from the Chimfunshi Orphanage to the Chimfunshi Education Center deteriorated over the last few months as a result of the heavy rains. But Tony Rauch, Chimfunshi’s manager, and Mark came up with a great idea: perhaps a couple of the American students would be keen to try and repair some of the pot holes. Ten students and two vehicles spent the morning doing road repairs. Loaded with shovels and picks they set off, and groups of two or three were dropped of at the really bad holes, while others helped with the loading of heavy bags of laterite and sand and offloading the bags into the pot holes. One group even headed off into the bush collecting termite mounds, which where crushed and used to fill in some pot holes.
Almost 20 minutes after the termite mounds where crushed, a string of about100 big black army ants came out of the grass across the road and went straight to the crushed termite mound. It took the ants about five minutes to collect up as many termites as they could carry away with them before moving back into the grass. They no sooner left when another group of army ants appeared from the bush and started the same process as the first group. The students where fascinated by this, and took a break from work to observe. Meanwhile, halfway down the road the next group of students using an old paint bucket to scoop the old muddy water out thought it would be a good idea to start of mud fight. It did not take long before fun, laughter and water was thrown on the bystanders.
All too often, we hear the dreaded call over the two-way radio: “Chimps are out!” One recent day, the call came in and Innocent rushed straight out to the enclosures to see who had escaped and to make sure everyone had been cleared out the area. On arriving at Enclosure 3, Innocent was surprised to find Louise and Barbie on the wrong side of the fence – particularly since it is not like these two to escape with out assistance of an alpha male. Louise, the instigator, had managed to gather five or six pieces of long bamboo from the nearby forest, carefully laid the bamboo against the hot wires of the electrical fence, then climbed over with great care. Barbie, who was menstruating, carefully followed suit. Often the female chimpanzees will try to escape from their group in hopes of displaying to other male chimpanzees. That was certainly the case this time.
The chimpanzees inside Enclosure 4 had heard the hoots and pants from the chimpanzees in Enclosure 3, making it impossible for the staff to get the chimpanzees inside their night cages. This was perfect for Barbie, who happily displayed her swollen rear end to the male chimpanzees from the wrong side of the fence. Nicky, the alpha male in Enclosure 4, was at a loss. He could not respond to Barbie because he knew that should he touch the electrical fence, he would get shocked. Bobby and the other males hooted and panted as if to encourage Barbie’s display. Louise participated in all the excitement by standing with Barbie.
After removing Louise’s escape tools from the fence line, Innocent and the handlers managed to get the two chimpanzees back into their own enclosures before any damage was done. Louise, normally is the quite peaceful chimpanzee of this group, so what made her plan such an escape only she will know.