Thursday, May 28, 2009
While I was staying in Mbandaka, I met this little fellow:
His name is Gaston, and he was staying at the same place as I did.
Although I must admit that my room was slightly more comfortable. And more spatious too.
He was staying at the procure of the archbishop of Mbandaka, after being 'rescued'. This means that he was bought from a trader, but of course that's exactly what keeps the trade in baby chimps and baby bonobos going. Hunting, catching and selling chimpansees and bonobos is 'highly illegal' in Congo, which means that you have to avoid the cops or you may have to bribe them.
The sad part is that to catch these baby/infant chimps, they have to kill the mother. Gaston is still a young animal, but when he's fullgrown, he'll be able to tear that cage apart like a house of cards.
There's nothing really much for him to do all day long in that little cage, except for eating. As you can imagine, his diet is not really adapted to his needs, although the staff of the center are quite fond of him and regularly offer him food.
He spends a lot of time sucking on a piece of bone.
All in all, his food was almost as fresh as ours...
As you can imagine, it's a pretty miserable life. The chances that he'll ever get out are slim. I talked to his caretaker, and he said that he would be released into the wild when he would be old enough. Problem is, he won't know how to feed himself even if he does regain his freedom. One stormy night, his old cage blew over and broke apart. But Gaston didn't run away. He was lured back into another cage with a bit of food.
To try to cheer him up, I made him some toys. My brother works with bonobos in the zoo, so I tried to create something similar to what I saw there, something that might keep him busy for a couple of hours. Here you see the Chimp Amusement Device Mk II (the Mk I was just an empty water bottle). You can see the hole in the cap, which is just big enough to get one of the nuts out that are inside the bottle.
Gaston was very happy when I offered it to him. It captured his imagination for at least five whole seconds. Then he understood that it was not immediately edible, and that he'd have to work a bit to get the peanuts out. So he discarded it on the floor of his cage.
Well, at least I tried.