Wednesday, 24 December 2008

GOING APE

Whilst in Cameroon I met some fascinating young women who are dedicated to the welfare and preservation of world wildlife, primates in particular.

Monica had just spent 6 months in the forest (her second time of doing this. There she cared for just chimpazees. She told me that once a whole group of chimpanzees escaped and went on the rampage. At the same time a group of dignitaries was visiting the centre and arrived by taxi. To their delight the vehicle was surrounded by chimps and they immediately began to take pictures. The chimps surrounded the car and apparently one of them smashed through the side window and hauled out the taxi driver, whereupon the whole group proceeded to tear him apart and kill him.

She also told me about a project she was working with in the US where a lady had dedicated her life to rescuing lab chimps and performing chimps too. Over the years the lady had got to know her beloved apes and grew very fond of them. She used to go into the enclosures and groom them and they her. One day one of the chimps had an argument with another and decided to take it out on the nearest primate - the lady. The chimpanzee violently attacked her, causing serious wounds.

I also heard about a chimpanzee that escaped its enclosure in a wildlife rescue centre. He attacked a keeper whom he knew, to whom he was usually very close. His canines ripped the man's face apart in a frenzied attack (he later spent a month in hospital). The man was able to fend the chimp off by punching it in the head. The chimp then jumped into the nearest gorilla enclosure, whereupon a gorilla, who had been watching the incident, proceeded to beat up the chimp.

These animals need to live in their natural habitat - the forest, where they are free to roam over many miles a day. There are many problems associated with re-release. One of them being that some primates, for example chimps and gorillas, are very susceptible to human diseases, even the common cold. They can die from contracting our threadworms, for example. So if any rescued animals are released into the forest, they could easily spread diseases which could potentially wipe out whole colonies of primates. There is also the continual problem of recapture - if you set animals free, then they are then free to be killed for bushmeat or captured for the illegal pet trade. Then there is deforestation - where do they live?

I heard able a terrible tale of corruption occuring in South East Asia. A rescue centre received £50,000 in funding to rescue and help ex laboratory monkeys. Which it did. But the centre also bred monkeys for research in another part of the country. So all they did was to "rescue" the monkeys from its breeding facilities and house them in its rescue centre, all in inadequate facilities.

When I was in Borneo one of the problems there is the ubiquitous logging and planting of palm oil. Flying low over the vast countryside, one becomes quite depressed at the sight of row upon regimented row of palm oil plantations, stretching for miles. The only animals which seem to thrive in this enviroment would be things like rats - not orangutans, silver leaf monkeys and proboscis monkeys.

1 comment:

Maurice said...

Let's face it....the world can't provide for all its human inhabitants to have a respectable standard of living.....that's why animals come second.