Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Visit to a Chimp Sanctuary


After six days of Internet-free life we are back in circulation. I am writing this from the solar-powered office of Dr. Lawrence Mugisha, who is chief veterinarian and sanctuary manager at Ngamba Island, where forty-five chimpanzees rescued from poachers live out their artificial lives. Here are two of the group next to an artificial termite mound

It is a chilling thought that almost all of these chimps are by-products of the bushmeat trade, as are all the other in the several sanctuaries scattered across Africa from Senegal to Johannesburg in the Pan African Sanctuary Association.

This morning our students have been afforded the privilege of working on health-checks of chimps during the routine annual health-checks of the group.

Lawrence and his team do a thorough work-up and most important they make sure that each adult female has retained her birth-control implant. The island, about a two-hour boat ride from Entebbe, is only one square kilometre in area, which is about enough for one chimp, so the animals have to be intensively managed and their entire food supply comes from their four daily feedings supplied by the dedicated staff.

We were, through the generosity of Pfizer Animal Health and the Canadian branch of Vets Without Borders/ Vétérinarians Sans Frontieres some of the essential supplies and pharmaceuticals that are needed to help make this program a success. Pictured here is Dr. Mushiga with some of our Canadian students and a packet of the drugs used to reverse the effects of the immobilizing drugs that are needed to carry out this work.

Most exciting, I discovered from Dr. Mugisha that a serious look is being taken at the possibility of rehabilitating some chimps back into the wild. A small section of suitable forest has been found in the Labongo area of Western Uganda and teams of investigators are currently taking a hard look at the many components that will need to mesh to make this effort got forward. It will take some time, so maybe there will be something to report next year if things go well.

Just before the boat left for the return to Entebbe we watched as the chimps were given their 2.30 pm feed.

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