At IPPL, we take pride in helping fund dozens of grassroots primate sanctuaries and rescue centers in countries where primates are native. One of the sanctuaries we help support is the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon, which cares for apes that have been rescued from the trade in bushmeat, pets, and animals used for tourist purposes. Some of their residents were abused for decades before being rescued. This sanctuary was founded by Dr. Sheri Speede of In Defense of Animals-Africa, who spoke at IPPL’s biennial Supporters’ Meeting last year.
In 2014, we helped fund a project to produce a children’s book called “Je Protège les Chimpanzés” (“I Protect Chimpanzees”) written by Diane Toomey and Deborah Meyer. It’s a story in three parts, lovingly illustrated with original drawings by Mary Swift. It’s aimed at children aged 9 to 11 and written in French.
The book first follows the adventures of a Cameroonian boy, Daniel, who goes into the nearby forest every Saturday to watch wild chimps. This is an opportunity to showcase the family bonds and natural behaviors of these apes in their native home. As Daniel rightly observes, “They are our cousins.”
Then the book takes a darker turn when, on a visit to his sister’s village, Daniel sees a young chimp orphan whose mother was killed for bushmeat. The despondent little ape is tied to a tree and seems to be in poor health.
Although the poachers have been arrested, the villagers are at a loss as to what to do with the infant, since it is illegal in Cameroon to either hunt or sell chimpanzees. Daniel has the idea of bringing the youngster to the Sanaga-Yong sanctuary, where the infant can be well taken care of. The third part of the book follows Daniel and the orphan chimp to the rescue facility deep in the jungle.
By now, 500 copies of the book have been printed. The goal is to use Sanaga-Yong’s new education coordinator to take the book into schools and use it as a basis for conservation outreach.
As Sanaga-Yong founder Dr. Sheri Speede wrote to us, “The book will also aim to instill a sense of national pride in Cameroon, highlighting how important Cameroon is as one of the few remaining places on the planet where these wonderful primates are found and emphasizing that part of Cameroon’s ‘greatness’ is its ‘great’ apes.”