Rescued Chimps Won't Eat Dinner Until Everyone Is Together

"Simon and Lucy waited for their other friends to come in from the forest."

“We should look for someone to eat and drink with," the ancient philosopher Epicurus said, "before looking for something to eat and drink.”

While people might need reminders of the importance of eating together, the residents at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center (SYCR) in Cameroon already adhere to this philosophy.

Rescued chimps in Cameroon
Future, the leader of a group of rescued chimps, and his friend Simon | Jacques Gillon

Recently, after a day of playing in the forest, it was time for dinner. Lucy and Simon were among the first chimps back at their lodgings. But they waited for their other friends to come back before going to the enclosure where dinner was waiting.

Rescued chimps wait for friends
Simon and Lucy wait for their friends before eating dinner. | IDA-Africa

Chimpanzees are naturally highly social animals. And the chimps at the sanctuary are especially close. It's no wonder they are, since all the chimps know what it's like to feel scared and alone.

Simon and Lucy, for example, were each orphaned and taken captive by poachers when they were just infants, before being saved by In Defense of Animals (IDA) — Africa and brought to the sanctuary, where they've lived with the same group for over a decade.

The group of rescued chimps have formed close bonds at the sanctuary. | IDA-Africa

"The social group of Simon and Lucy is the largest at Sanaga-Yong and is a wonderful group," Sheri Speede, director of IDA-Africa and SYCR, told The Dodo. Speede is well-versed in the social norms of this fascinating group of rescued chimps. "The group was originally led by Jacky, who was in a small cage at a hotel for 30 years. He was one of the first three chimpanzees we rescued and brought to Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in 1999. He is a kind chimpanzee (now an old man) who was a good role model for Simon, Lucy and all the others who were introduced to him as babies."

The chimps spend a lot of time grooming each other. | IDA-Africa

The group is now led by Future, a 16-year-old chimp, who is doing a good job maintaining order, Speede said. And the group is lucky to have a safe place to live and socialize at the sanctuary, considering the threats facing chimps in the region, where many of the endangered animals are illegally hunted for bushmeat.

"As a founding member of Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), SYCR focuses resources on direct conservation aimed at keeping chimpanzees living free," Speede said. "We are in the last stage of a many-years-long process to bring formal protected area status to the Mbargue Forest, which will lead to the allocation of eco-guards with the authority to stop poaching and illegal logging in the forest surrounding the sanctuary."

Rescued chimps eating
Lucy and her friend Cindy getting excited about meal time | IDA-Africa

After what these individuals have gone through, they deserve no less than a safe place to live and eat together.

To help keep chimpanzees safe, you can make a donation to IDA-Africa.