With the help of funding from IPPL and our generous supporters, a new forested enclosure built especially for sanctuary chimpanzees in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo welcomed its first residents last month.  

The new electric-fenced forest enclosure for chimps at the CRPL.

A new electric-fenced enclosure at this DRC sanctuary means orphaned chimpanzees will be able to explore a natural habitat for the first time in years. (Thanks to Andrea Edwards for these exclusive photos!)

Construction on the 2.7 hectare (nearly 7 acre) electric-fenced enclosure at the Centre de Réhabilitation des Primates de Lwiro (CRPL) started in February 2008 and was completed on May 1, 2012, at a cost of US$200,000. Two days later, the first chimpanzees were released into this forested habitat.

Misisi, Monique, Ituri, Maiko, Fizi, Julius, and Uvira (all around 4 to 6 years of age) were the first to investigate their new home. According to Andrea Edwards, the outgoing CRPL co-manager, “The young chimpanzees, accompanied by their long-time caregivers, were released into the forest and immediately began exploring. While Misisi and Monique were brave and independent, young Ituri decided it was wiser to be carried around by her dedicated caregiver, Papy.” A guava tree was the biggest hit!

 

 

 

Pablo, Bolungwa, and Kathe joined Ituri & Co. a few days later. Says Andrea, “We will be interested to see what new behaviors emerge in the chimpanzees as they are moved out of their former caging and into this best-practice facility. When Kathe joined the crew, she showed the group more food plants within the environment and even tried to crack some nuts with stones that she’d found.”

 

Julius at the CRPL.

Julius was one of the first chimps to be released into the CRPL’s forest enclosure, officially known as Chimpanzee Habitat for Conservation and Education.

These 10 youngsters have since been joined by many others. In the four weeks following the initial release, the CRPL staff gradually integrated 35 of the sanctuary’s 52 chimpanzees from four separate groups into a single “extended family” within the new living space. The forest-enclosure group now includes adult males and females in addition to juveniles of various ages.

These wonderful apes—all confiscated from the illegal trade in bushmeat and pets—are now able to climb real trees for the first time since they were abducted from their families in the wild. Some of the adults have not touched grass in over 10 years.  

While a number of organizations contributed to the success of the new habitat, the CRPL remains grateful for IPPL’s help over the years. “The International Primate Protection League has not only been a huge financial supporter in this enormous project, but has assisted the CRPL with operational costs over the construction period,” says Andrea. “Without the assistance of IPPL and the IPPL supporters, these chimpanzees would still be waiting in their cages. We cannot thank IPPL and IPPL members enough for their generosity and support. We look forward to sharing more wonderful stories with you as this project continues.”

 Check out the CRPL’s blog for more updates!

 

Uvira at the CRPL.

Uvira, like all the chimps housed at the CRPL, was a victim of illegal poaching before being confiscated and turned over to the sanctuary.

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