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Former Circus Chimpanzee Marks Anniversary‏

Toto celebrated the eighth anniversary of his freedom at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage on January 29th. It was on this day in 2003 that Animal Defenders International (ADI) seized Toto from small circus in Chile, and with that his life of living in a packing crate, smoking cigarettes, traveling across South America by truck, and entertaining people ended.

Toto arrived at Chimfunshi in September of that year, and was quickly integrated into the younger group at the Orphanage. Given that Toto hadn’t seen another chimpanzee in at least two decades, it was surprising how well he got on, but he bonded with Madonna and later Fred Sims (pictured together above). These days, Toto is doing very well, still loving his group of wild youngsters, which now includes little Dominique, who loves Toto dearly.

Dominique makes a point of sitting next to Toto during feeding time, as he knows Toto is always willing to share food with him. We can see that Dominique does not have the best table manners when it comes to food, but Toto seems to cope well enough with this little four-year old. Dominique even manages to take food out of Toto’s mouth, or sometimes from his hands as he moves closer to Toto’s mouth. Of course, we are all aware of this little thief in Toto’s life, therefore we always make sure that Toto gets an extra helping of food. When visitors ask: “Should you not move Dominique into another night cage for feeding?” our reply is always “No.” Toto seems to enjoy the extra attention he gets from his caretakers, but best of all he loves the attention Dominique gives him.

When the feeding rush hour is over and the chimpanzees are having their afternoon nap, one can usually find Dominique fast asleep in Toto’s lap. But since Dominique — like all youngsters — does not need the same amount of sleep as the others, you will just as often find him and Toto having a game of tickling and laughing. You could say it is Dominique that keeps Toto on his toes.

Seasonal Fruits 

January is always a wet month at Chimfunshi due to the heavy rains, but it brings in loads of the chimpanzees’ favorite fruits.

Mangoes are a big delight, and the chimpanzees cannot get enough of this juicy fruit. While the bigger chimpanzees manage to push entire mangoes into their mouths – and then spitting out the pit at the center — the younger ones take great care to peel the mango before enjoying the fruit. Using their teeth, the chimpanzees carefully peel back the skin and eating it like an apple, hoping not to loose any part of it.

Avacados are a healthy vegetable enjoyed by all the primates at Chimfunshi – both human and non-human – and by the end of January guavas, begin to appear in the market once again. The chimpanzees really do enjoy this fruit, although to watch them eat their guavas is odd. The chimpanzees will break the guava in half and only eat the center part before throwing the tough peels aside. Only when all the guavas are finished will the chimpanzees then go back and collect the peels and chew on them to create a pulp in their mouths.

Billy’s Birthday

Famous Billy the hippopotamus turned 20 years old on January 1st. She weighed just 32 kilograms (70 pounds) when she arrived at Chimfunshi as a frightened five-day old orphan, her mother having been killed by hunters and her own body criss-crossed with deep wounds and gashes. But Billy – who was initially thought to be a male, hence the name — received the same love and attention as the chimpanzees at Chimfunshi, and she quickly recovered.

Sheila Siddle made sure Billy got special treats on her special day: two fresh loaves of bread, an extra crate of mangoes and fresh green maize – along with her usual two warm bottles of milk.

Like humans, Billy has a daily routine that includes walkabouts up and down the Kafue River each night, visiting farms and flood plains along the way. When she returns home in the morning, she usually raids our vegetable gardens raids the cattle paddocks for a snack, then sleeps the rest of the day away in the main compound.

But on the morning of January 12th, the night watchman reported Billy was acting very strange, almost as if she was playing a game. Confused by what was going on he thought it would be a good idea to keep an eye on her. He said she was “bouncing around almost like she was walking on hot coals.” Only when Billy looked back and the night watchman heard a sound behind him did he himself turn around to see a large wild hippo, the first to be spotted in this area for a long time. The watchman could not tell us if the wild hippo was a female or male, but he did say Billy kept an eye on her new friend at all times. This is exciting news for us all here at Chimfunshi as we had feared all of the wild hippos in the area had been hunted out years ago.

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