In March 2020, the Covid-19 Pandemic stroke worldwide and the local Congolese economy as well as the whole sanitary system was badly hit too . The first Covid case was confirmed in Kinshasa (the capital) on the 10th of March and all the different DRC provinces were immediately put on the alert. Although the presence of the virus was not yet confirmed at that time around J.A.C.K. in Lubumbashi (South DR Congo), the sanctuary Founders, Franck and Roxane CHANTEREAU, could already feel its economic repercussions and had to face a sudden increase in prices, food shortage, growing inscurity, etc.
Last January, when the Covid-19 virus was extending all over China and because there were still flights between Beijing and Lubumbashi, Franck and Roxane already decided to strengthen the health control at the sanctuary. Since nothing is known about damage caused by this virus on great apes, both Founders were too scared the corona virus would enter the complex and contaminate the chimpanzees! It was therefore obvious more sanitary measures had to be taken to prevent zoonoses!
The team of J.A.C.K. has been working with masks, gloves and footbaths since 2008. In early 2020, temperature of staff was taken twice a day and if a member of the team showed any signs of flu, he/she was isolated and kept in observation for 21 days.
Also, because it was not confirmed the disease was already in town (Lubumbashi had been set on a two-day lockdown, cirizens were said to be positive and later on negative…), Franck set his mind on buying bicycles for the personnel so that it no longer had to depend on public transport.
This is how J.A.C.K applied for Emergency Funds from the PAN AFRICAN SANCTUARY ALLIANCE (PASA) to purchase bikes and to store enough food as it was clear tough times were to come: borders had been closed, unscrupulous merchants put exagerated prices on their goods, the DRC local currency (Congolese Franc) devaluated, insecurity was getting worse and the population did not respect barrier gestures.
So, in March, thanks to the great support of PASA’s Donors, J.A.C.K. managed to protect its team and its hairy residents from the virus and from dreath. In town, many people made fun of J.A.C.K.’s Founders due to the so many sanitary measures they were taking. Only a few of them understood they both had a huge responsability to keep the sanctuary safe from harm… What would happen if the virus entered the Centre?
Among these few people was Mr MUIR, Provincial Director of ICCN. He is the Wildlife Authority of the Province. He is the Congolese Wildlife partner of J.A.C.K. and he is also in charge of all the fauna and the flora of the area.
Mr MUIR was extremely worried that the virus would already be in the city and enter the sanctuary despite all the health control measures. To him and to J.A.C.K. Founders lockdown was unavoidable! Therefore, a PREVENTIVE LOCKDOWN was decreed from April 1st till April the 30th.
Again, thanks to the generosity of PASA’s Donors, J.A.C.K. bought all the needed equipment to make the team feel “at home” at the sanctuary (matrasses, mosquito nets, buckets, kitchen ustensils, a TV set, toiletry items, etc.).
During this isolation period, Franck and Roxane cannot be 100% isolated as their mission is to provide the team (18 people) and the sanctuary residents (34 chimpanzees) with all the food and medication that they need.
Unfortunately, at that time, the one and only car of J.A.C.K. broke down and the Emergency Grant of PASA also enabled to buy a second hand gearbox. The vehicle is essential to the sanctuary: if there is no car, no food can be bought nor collected from local sponsors and no supplies can be driven to the sanctuary…
Today, lockdown at J.A.C.K. is now TOTAL since May 1st until further notice. Lubumbashi is counting hundreds of confirmed positive Covid-19 cases and the disease is all around the sanctuary! The people that were laughing at the Founders’ sanitary measures now consider taking the same measures to protect themselves and realise Franck and Roxane were right and did well! We all hope and pray this nightmare will soon come to an end so that “normal” life can come back at the sanctuary.
Many, many thanks to PASA nd its Donors for the wonderful support which has helped J.A.C.K. for the last 11 weeks. We all live awful times because of the virus and it is clear that, without Love and solidarity, we can’t make it! We must all work together hand in hand to face one common enemy: the Covid-19 virus!