Let’s share that surprising news. A new young chimpanzee orphan has recently been seized by local authorities and brought at the Refuge Centre. SEKI is a young male of about 3 1/2 to 4 years old and is in an amazing condition: his fur is beautiful, his physical condition is great and SEKI doesn’t show any sign of malnutrition nor mistreatment.
SEKI’s story is a long story. That young chimp has been known and tracked by Ministry of Environment since 2006. By a curious coincidence, a picture of him was given to Franck and handed over to the authorities. It was in October 2006.
October 2006 -You have seen that picture already in a previous post; SEKI is on the left. He’s being sold on a market in a remote city called Kongolo (The other little one hasn’t been found yet!)
SEKI is easy to recognise. If you have a deep look on his right hand, you’ll notice the malformation of the phalanx of his index finger. Probably caught in a snare, this latter has left its mark on him and has enabled J.A.C.K. to follow SEKI from one owner to another.
The phalanx of SEKI’s right index finger is malformed and has probably been caught in a snare.
November 2006, a friend of us called me saying she had seen someone selling two chimpanzee babies on the street. An inspector of Environment was sent to check the information and met the trader: a young man, starving, begging food for himself and for the chimps. These latter were sick, dehydrated and the youngest was raw boned. During day, the owner walked with them on the streets, while, at night, the two little ones were kept in a very small crate full of dirt.
November 2007 – Lubumbashi, the trader holding SEKI (left of the picture) and his little mate that has never been found
The detained chimps were hardly fed, eating peanuts and mangoes only. Both were sick and had diarrhoeas. Look at the right index of SEKI!
At night, the babies were locked in a small and dirty crate
It took a few days before the legal documents of seizure were signed by authorities, and, of course, meanwhile, the trader moved, hid, and remained nowhere to be found. The Ministry of Environment lost all traces of the two little ones and end of 2006 we were sure they had left the country.
April 2007, a young expatriate lady came to visit the Refuge Centre. She really was surprised to find such project here in DRC and also mentioned she had a chimpanzee at home that was hurt. As her husband had become jealous of the young animal and as the chimp didn’t want the husband to come too close to his wife, the baby chimpanzee had been pushed and thrown onto rocks thus breaking his thighbone in two pieces…. On visiting J.A.C.K., the lady realised she had made a mistake in buying the little one and that she had been part of the slaughter of “her baby’s” family. Remember, to get one chimp from the wild, about ten are sacrificed as the elders protect their youngsters.
April 2007 – Lubumbashi, SEKI is staying with an expatriate lady who believes “her baby” is already adult. Her vet also told her he wouldn’t become taller as he is a “pygmy” chimpanzee…. Imagine how people, even vets, aren’t informed !!!
SEKI trying to walk after his operation.
The thighbone was broken in two pieces and SEKI couldn’t bend his leg
So, the lady invited us to pay her a visit at home in order to check the chimp’s leg. This meeting gave us a lot of details on that poor little one and both Franck and I agreed on the same facts: SEC (this is the name he had from the smuggler and which the lady kept) wasn’t no longer a chimp; he had become a human!!! Although the young animal was well treated and was in good condition, it was horrible to us to see that!
SEKI had become the child the expatriate lady had never had: he was free to run round the place and was raised up like a human
Still in April 2007, we managed to convince the lady to contact the authorities to organize seizure onceSEKI’s leg was healed. It took months and months. When we met the vet who had operated the leg and who went to see the chimp regularly, he said the baby was fine, that the leg was ok and that the chimpanzee could have joined J.A.C.K. already. Franck and I then clearly understood the lady didn’t want to bring the chimp orphan at J.A.C.K.
You see, that lady was among the “high ranking people” of Lubumbashi I spoke about in a previous post. Knowing that no-one would come to bother her, the young expatriate selfishly kept the chimp at her place telling us “her baby” still hadn’t recovered from surgery.
Finally, in February 2008, the lady decided to call Franck. “Her baby” had become too unruly : he used to leave the house to go and disturb the neighbours and she was losing control on him. As we always insist on procedures to be done in the most legal way, Franck contacted the local authorities to organise the seizure.
Early March 2008, SEKI was seized by Ministry of Environment. It wasn’t an easy task, as the little (strong!) one had to be anaesthetized in a bit to be transported and brought to the quarantine area of the Refuge Centre. These moments were full of emotions.
SEKI was anaesthetized to be brought at J.A.C.K. : he wouldn’t have accepted to enter the quarantine cage
“Before”, in his “former life” (with the expatriate lady), SEKI was free to run around the place. Also, he was treated like a human and raised up like a child. SEKI ate pizza, drank fanta and opened fridge and cupboards once feeling hungry…That young little one also watched tv, read books, and even weed on a pot or in the garden but never on the floor in the house…
Once awaken, SEKI decided not to stay behind the bars. Taught how to work with screwdrivers, nuts and bolts, the young chimp managed to unscrew a corner of his new dwelling and simply joined the team begging for a hug. As it was impossible to get him back, the vet injected a second (light) sedative to SEKI and we finally put him in a stronger quarantine place.
Again SEKI was sedated
and put back in quarantine…
On his arrival, also, his name was changed: SEC has now become SEKI. Franck simply added the suffix “-ki” to make a link with the Swahili word “kilole” meaning finger (remember, his right index is malformed).
Today, the new comer is doing fine and has got accustomed to his new environment. We still stay with him, cuddle him and play. He’s got the toys of “before” as to enable him to make a better transition between the two different worlds. J.A.C.K.’s new challenge is to teach SEKI how to become a chimp again….
Dear All, you see, SEKI’s story is a long story but, unfortunately, he is the best example of human stupidity. People buy baby chimpanzees because they are cute and also because they feel pity in seeing a baby sometimes in a terrible condition. Smugglers know how to take profit of this pity and very often push people to buy young apes. But, then, the animals become uncontrollable and the owners get rid of them .
SO, PLEASE, NEVER BUY A BABY APE: THEY WERE BORN TO BE FREE IN THE FORREST AMONG INDIVIDUALS OF THE SAME SPECIES !!!
Thanks to all of you for reading and also, thanks a lot to Lucia C. and Theresa S. for their donations
Roxane, Franck and the Chimps