Last updated on February 7, 2012
The early morning radio call from Stemson sounded urgent: “Bobby is badly injured!” Knowing Innocent and Sheila had already headed for town, I told Stemson to have the keepers get the other chimpanzees inside. Meanwhile, loaded with veterinary drugs and bribing materials, I headed over to the Project from the Orphanage, an eight-kilometer drive.
Upon arrival, I found some of the staff waiting at the top of Enclosure 4, where Bobby was last seen. Knowing it was not possible to go inside the enclosure with all the other chimpanzees outside, we had to make a plan. But a plan could not be made until Bobby had been spotted. After walking the fence line for some time, a few of the female chimpanzees were found, and the alpha males, Nicky and Sinkie, could be seen hanging around the night cages with all the younger males, just as one would see in a gangster movie. Clearly, Bobby was the one who had just been kicked out of the group. Julie and her two-year old son, Jack, called out soft warning pants, causing alarms between the girls. Nine-year old Miracle was not too sure what to make of this, while Kambo, carrying her son Kit, kept on glancing back to where Bobby apparently lay, near an old log covered with long grass.
The keepers knew just what to do. Carrying treats as bribes, they began to walk the girls back to the night cages, and fortunately for us, all of the males happily followed. Once the chimpanzees were locked inside, the keepers swung into the enclosure and it did not take Bobby long to come out from his hiding place, once he heard the calls of the men he knew so well. Hobbling one leg, Bobby appeared, his face pale as he held his foot in pain. On his left foot he had lost the second toe while his right foot had been badly bitten underneath, yet he preferred to walk on the foot with the missing toe, while lifting his swollen foot up. Bobby never responded to the soft hoots and pants from the staff when they saw him; he just wanted was to know that there was someone around. In all the years of Bobby getting injured he has never been very brave; he relies on the human touch for healing. Showing us his foot we knew that there was no way Bobby was going to make the walk back to the night cages.
We gave Bobby first one and then two injections of the anesthetic, ketamine, hoping to get him asleep so that we could treat his feet, but he managed to fight off the effects of both doses. Sitting back against a tree, Bobby just sat calmly and listened to the birds overhead, waving his hand now and then to chase the flies away from his foot. Periodically, Bobby glanced over in our direction, as if waiting for someone to move closer to give him yet another injection.
Finally, Bobby stood and moved to where I was sitting, and placed himself in front of me. He took my hand and just held it. Grooming his leg, I was able to get a good look at the left foot where the toe was missing, and it did not look nice. But it was the right foot we were most worried about, as the wound was deep and did not smell too good. I asked Bobby for his foot, and he lifted it and placed it on my leg. I cupped it in both my hands I looked at Bobby, who seemed quite happy to let someone else look at it.
It was getting late and we did not think it a wise idea to give Bobby another dose of anesthetic, so it was best to leave him for the night inside the enclosure. We gave Bobby a sack, some water and a bit of food, then we headed back to the night cages to check on the rest of the group. There was no way to know for sure how Bobby got injured, but we could easily guess. Clearly he had gotten into a disagreement with another chimpanzee that turned somehow violent, and Bobby – being one of the lower-ranking males – probably found himself fighting off a couple of extra chimpanzees before it was all over.
The next morning, we were able to inject Bobby with a dose of Zolatil, a more powerful anesthetic, and he went out like a light. That allowed us to put him into the back of the vanette and move him to the night cages, where he stayed for a week in order for us to monitor his foot. With the help of Sarah, our volunteer vet nurse from Australia, we cleaned up Bobby’s bad wounds and he was then placed on an antibiotics. Waking up an hour, later Bobby looked around for familiar faces and found he was next to our top escape artist, Chiffon, so they both had company for the next week.
Chimpanzees Escape A recent Sunday started off as a quiet day, with only one vehicle visiting out at the Project area. Then there was a radio message to say two chimpanzees were out. Heading up to Enclosure 3, Innocent found that Roxy and Louise had managed to slip themselves underneath the fence line and where hanging around the staff. Louise, a gentle female, seemed quite happy to be on the wrong side of the fence, but Roxy thought it would be a good idea to try and explore. Jacob escorted Louise back to t he night cages while everyone kept a sharp eye out for Roxy, who had wondered off. It was not long before she was spotted and the staff gave chase to keep up with her. As if playing a game, Roxy kept the staff busy before heading back to the enclosure and slipping herself back underneath the fence line just as she had got out.
Cancer Claims Thompson
Illness is always sad in animals. Thompson was handed-raised by Sheila after arriving as an infant in 1995, but had contracted cancer along the way and had been suffering for some time. Three years ago, Thompson was operated on for an infected tooth in the right side of his mouth. We where warmed that this could give Thompson problems, and over the last few years we have kept a close watch on him. When necessary, called on our veterinarian, Dr. Bruce Peck from South Africa, to come up and check on him. Sadly, we could see that by the last week of August Thompson was in sharp decline, and we knew that there was nothing we could do to help him except make things comfortable for him. Thompson passed away on the August 28, on top of his favorite ant hill. He will be missed by all his friends of Enclosure 3.
The last few months one of the projects on hand is to solve our water problems by creating a way to get water directly from the Kafue River to the chimpanzee enclosures. This will help with the cleaning of the night cages and daily water ponds. For this to happen, water pipes needed to be laid underground for a distance of approximately six kilometers. We don’t have the funds to hire a trench digging machine, so the next best thing was to hire labor crews to start digging this long trench. Once that is completed, we will purchase the pipe – and the pump – necessary to put the project into action.
The other project we’re focused on is the making of new blocks for staff housing. Zambeef kindly sponsored a block making machine, and we assembled a work crew to test it out. Using one bag of cement, a couple of shovels of stone and sand, they poured the mixture into the block mold. They then push a lever down and the cement is compounded into the mould. After a but pounding on the machine — to ensure that the mould is formed — the block maker is then gently lifted up, leaving behind a perfect 8-inch block. The work crew has even found a way to utilize the clay formed by the large ant hills on the property, using the crushed material to create even stronger blocks.
It all began many years ago when old truck tires were cut in half and placed in different parts of the Orphanage as fencing. Billy, our resident hippopotamus, used to have a favorite tire in front of the kitchen window she would use to drink out of during the day. The other half of the tire was placed near the food shed, which the geese would enjoy during the day. One day, we heard the sounds of a tire being daggered around the back yard, and upon checking, we found Billy having a great game with a tire in her mouth. She would pick it up, shake the tire in the air, and then suddenly let it go and watch as it rolled away from her. Then, like a two-ton kitten, Billy would run after the tire catch it. She would repeat this game over and over. Often, in the early hours of the morning when all others were asleep, Billy could be heard throwing her tire around the compound. Sunday morning was just like any other normal day, except Billy had thought it would be a good idea to pull one of the half tires away from the chimpanzees’ night cages to swing around. Sheila and I watched from the kitchen window laughing at how a hippopotamus can still be so playful. But we quickly realized that something was not right. Billy had bitten so deeply into the tire that it was now stuck on her two bottom teeth. No matter how Billy turned and twisted her head the tire was not about to come loose. At first Billy did not seem too concerned, but then it became clear that the tire would nto come off. Sheila also became very concerned, as what does one do to help a fully grown hippo remove a half tire from her teeth?
Standing outside, Sheila called to Billy, who responded by walking with Sheila down to her usual feeding place. It was hoped that Billy might be able to lift her head over her feeding rails then by convincing her to move her head back down, the tire might hook on the rails of the fence and come off. Sheila spoke to Billy in a calm voice, and for a short while Billy just stood, as if to be listening to her mother. Billy then rested her head down on the ground for a couple of seconds, as if to think what to do next, then shaking her head once more and one part of the tire managed to unhook itself off the tooth. A short time later, Billy managed to rub up against a tree and loosen the other side, and the tire fell to the ground. the other side off to rubber the tyre once again on the tree trunk for the other side to come free. The worried staff all cheered, and Sheila and I let out great sighs of relief. Sheila said her biggest fear had been needing to call in a vet to dart a hippo so that a tire could be removed from her bottom teeth. That would have caused a good laugh worldwide! On that happy note we would like to say “thank you” all so much for your kind support in membership, adoptions, and for the time you have spent reading our newsletters.
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Hoots and pants from all the chimpanzees,