Iraq smok­ing chimp finds refuge in Kenya

Manno is be­lieved to have been born in Da­m­as­cus

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH -


Sep­a­rated from his mother shortly af­ter birth, Manno the chimpanzee was smug­gled to Iraq and spent his days smok­ing cig­a­rettes handed to him by amused zoo vis­i­tors and pos­ing for pic­tures. The four-year-old would also be dressed as a child and fed soda and sweets giv­ing him near per­ma­nent di­ar­rhoea-be­fore be­ing locked in a small cage ev­ery night in a pri­vate zoo in the Kur­dish city of Do­huk.

Then came help from sev­eral con­ser­va­tion groups, and Manno’s days as a spec­ta­cle-and smoker-are now over af­ter ar­riv­ing at a chimpanzee sanctuary in Kenya a week ago.”On the trip be­tween Do­huk and Erbil air­port, the con­voy car­ry­ing him was, at the clos­est, about 20 kilo­me­ters from Mo­sul,” where fierce battles are un­der way be­tween the Iraqi army and the Is­lamic State group, said Daniel Stiles of the Project to End Great Ape Slav­ery (PEGAS).

Af­ter sev­eral days trav­el­ling in a small wooden box, Manno ar­rived on Novem­ber 30 at the chimpanzee sanctuary within the Ol Pejeta con­ser­vancy at the foot of Mount Kenya, which has been tak­ing in en­dan­gered chim­panzees since 1993. “Be­fore join­ing the other chim­panzees, he has to re­main in quar­an­tine for a while,” to en­sure that Manno does not have any dis­eases that could be trans­mit­ted to the re­serve’s 36 other res­i­dents, said Stephen Ngulu, a ve­teri­nar­ian and the chimp sanctuary’s di­rec­tor.

To avoid un­set­tling the del­i­cate bal­ance within the troop, and the cre­ation of deadly ri­val­ries, Manno will be slowly in­tro­duced to the other chimps be­fore join­ing them in their one square kilo­me­ter of fenced ter­ri­tory. Manno, who is be­lieved to have been born in a zoo in the Syr­ian capital of Da­m­as­cus, has not had any con­tact with his own kind since at least the end of 2013 when he was il­le­gally sold to the Do­huk zoo for $15,000 (14,000 eu­ros).

In the mean­time, Manno hap­pily swings on ropes and plays with stuffed an­i­mals and balls in his room. “He plays, he moves around con­stantly, he is very ex­cited by what we give him,” said Ngulu. “He doesn’t seem to be de­pressed.”

‘Con­ser­va­tion fail­ure’

Un­for­tu­nately for many of the other chimps in the sanctuary, that is not the case. Many of them have been trau­ma­tized af­ter ex­pe­ri­ences that make it im­pos­si­ble to re­turn them to their nat­u­ral habi­tat of trop­i­cal forests in the Congo basin and west Africa. Poco, 36, one of the old­est males in the sanctuary, was res­cued from a cage of less than one cu­bic meter in a garage in Bu­rundi. An­other called Ge­orge was a pet in South Africa whose own­ers could no longer han­dle as the chimp grew older.

Oth­ers were seized in air­ports while be­ing smug­gled from one place to an­other. The sanctuary “is not a nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, but it’s a whole lot bet­ter than what those chimps ex­pe­ri­enced in the first part of their lives,” said Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s di­rec­tor. He sees the ex­is­tence of the chimp sanctuary as a sign of “con­ser­va­tion fail­ure” re­gard­ing the species, whose cur­rent pop­u­la­tion is es­ti­mated to be no more than 250,000. Chim­panzees are listed as in dan­ger of ex­tinc­tion by the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture (IUCN).

‘Ob­jects of amuse­ment’

The main threat to chim­panzees, whose genes are 98.8 per­cent sim­i­lar to those of hu­mans, is poach­ing and the de­struc­tion of their habi­tat. “Adult chimps are killed for their meat in places like cen­tral Africa, and in­fant chimps are (cap­tured) with the view to their be­ing sold on,” said Vigne. He said that while in the past chimps were mainly cap­tured for med­i­cal test­ing, they have more re­cently be­come sought af­ter as pets in the Mid­dle and Far East, and “ob­jects of amuse­ment to make cash for their own­ers.” “When they are young... they are very cute and peo­ple like them. Then they grow up and they-par­tic­u­larly if they’re male-start to be­come more ag­gres­sive and dif­fi­cult to han­dle. —AFP

ERBIL, Iraq: File photo shows four-year-old chimpanzee Manno, res­cued from a zoo in Duhok af­ter be­ing traf­ficked from Syria, play­ing in his trans­port crate at Erbil In­ter­na­tional air­port be­fore his flight to Sweet­wa­ters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya. —AFP

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