Orphaned Chimp Hugs Rescuer All The Way To Her New Sanctuary
"Something truly seemed to click for Rebeca that she was no longer in danger."
When an infant chimp had a chance to go somewhere safe, wildlife officials did everything they could to make sure she got there.
No one knows exactly what happened to Rebeca's family — but it's probably the same sad story so many infant chimps endure.
Endangered chimpanzees, some of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, are being killed for bushmeat. Often, adults are killed, leaving their helpless babies behind. These little chimps are then usually sold for a profit as pets.
And this is very nearly what happened to Rebeca — until some heroes stepped in.
A married couple, Jenny and Jimmy Desmond, became determined to do something to help save chimpanzees from extinction, so they started a sanctuary for dislocated orphans just like Rebeca called Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue (LCR). Their rescue dog, Princess, also helps them raise the orphans who are so in need of love and comfort after losing their families.
"Rebeca came from a town called Banga," Jenny Desmond told The Dodo. "Jimmy was there there doing work for an organization for whom he consults — EcoHealth Alliance. The wildlife officials found out he was there and know we run a chimpanzee sanctuary ... so they quickly confiscated her to get her to him while he was in the area."
Rebeca had been tied up outside someone's house when a local woman discovered her and offered to buy her from the man who tied her up. "This person had supposedly killed her family for bushmeat," Desmond said. Rebeca then was handed over to the authorities, who jumped at the opportunity to send the baby chimp to a sanctuary.
Simeon Fahn, on the LCR team, drove Rebeca to her new home. She cuddled close to him along the way, as if she knew she was safe.
When Rebeca arrived, she made a nest — which is something young chimps learn how to do from their mothers. "They do it for a safe, hidden and cozy place to sleep. As they move nearly every night, it is an important skill to have," Desmond explained. "Babies learn this from their mothers and other family members and it's considered tool-use. Some chimps who come to us have learned this skill well, meaning they probably had more time in the forest with their mother before she was killed."
Rebeca, satisfied with her nest, finally went to sleep.
When Rebeca woke up to the first day of her new, safe life, something incredible happened.
"This morning we all woke up and Max, Poppy and Bui [other newly rescued baby chimps at the sanctuary] caught sight of a new friend in the bed," Jenny Desmond said. "And Rebeca caught sight of them. While Max and Poppy stayed near me, afraid, Bui went directly to Rebeca and took in deep breaths all over her body then gave her a big hug. Rebeca who had been very nervous about all of them at first glance, was immediately completely at ease with Bui after this greeting and they started playing and laughing loudly."
Both Rebeca and Bui are from the same area, near Banga, and they are close in age. "They could very well know one another!" Desmond said.
"Something truly seemed to click for Rebeca that she was no longer in danger the moment she woke up this morning," she added. "She's lying right next to me now snuggled up, after a full day and with a full belly."