5 min read

Chimp Left To Die On Deserted Island Is Finally Getting Saved

He's 40 years old — and about to start a whole new life.

A 40-year-old chimpanzee named Ponso might be one of the loneliest individuals in the world - but he's about to get a whole new life.

Ponso has lived on an island off the Ivory Coast for the past three decades, ever since the New York Blood Center (NYBC), which used Ponso for medical testing, abandoned him there along with 20 other chimps in 1983.

Soon after, all his friends died off of disease and starvation, leaving just Ponso and his family. Then, in 2013, Ponso's mate and children also weakened and died.

But Ponso survived, thanks to the hard work of a few people who refused to abandon him when everyone else had. For years, a local man named Germaine brought him bananas and kept Ponso company.

Earlier this year, Estelle Raballand, founder of the Chimpanzee Conservation Center, visited Ponso a few times to assess whether he was strong enough to leave the island.

Then, after tests in June found Ponso was disease-free and healthy enough to move to be with other chimps, Raballand found a special place Ponso will be able to call home: Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in Zambia.

In September, the Ivory Coast government approved Ponso's move. Now rescuers are rushing to relocate Ponso before the Zambian rainy season from November to April, which will make roadways hard to travel. But they need to build him a new home at the orphanage first.

"We are exploring hiring a contractor to get the building ready quickly," Raballand told The Dodo. "Hopefully if all goes well, he'll be moved in November."

Now almost everything is ready for Ponso. "Thank you for your patience! We have been busy working out quotes and specifics with Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage," SOS Ponso, a coalition of volunteers who formed in 2015 to help Ponso, wrote on Facebook this week. "We are going as fast as we can."

The last step is to secure a permit from CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) to move Ponso to his new home. But rescuers have no reason to believe that this will be a problem.

Once Ponso gets to the sanctuary, he'll have a lot of new friends to meet - but he'll have to take his time to ease into his new life.

"He will undergo a respiratory quarantine for a few weeks where he'll be next to chimps but not with them," Raballand said. "We then will introduce Alice and Cindy to him first."

Alice and Cindy are two rescued chimps living at the orphanage who are from the Ivory Coast, just like Ponso.