UN Airlifts Chimpanzee to Safety in DR Congo
An orphaned male chimpanzee discovered in a military camp in northern Democratic Republic of Congo was confiscated by Congolese wildlife officials this week and transported by United Nations peacekeepers to a rehabilitation centre in South Kivu.
The transfer was arranged by the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), which worked closely with the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) and U.N. peacekeeping forces (MONUSCO) to bring the chimpanzee to the Lwiro Centre for Primate Rehabilitation (CPRL).
The chimpanzee, nicknamed “Kimia,” which means “peace” in the Lingala language spoken widely in Central Africa , had been kept as a pet, though it is illegal to do so in DR Congo. Kimia is estimated to be two to three years of age.
“GRASP is extremely grateful to the Congolese authorities and the U.N. peacekeepers from MONUSCO who made this transfer possible,” said GRASP coordinator Doug Cress. “MONUSCO’s mandate extends to protecting the natural heritage of the Democratic Republic of Congo in addition to protecting its citizens, and the rescue of this chimpanzee — an endangered species protected by law — is a good example of that commitment.”
GRASP, which is based at the U.N. headquarters in Kenya, has worked with U.N. peacekeepers to relocate orphaned chimpanzees and gorillas to rehabilitation centres since 2011.
Orphaned chimpanzees like Kimia are representative of a larger problem of unchecked poaching in rural regions of DR Congo.
At Lwiro, Kimia will be placed in quarantine before being allowed to join the other 64 chimpanzees at the centre’s facility in Bukavu. Lwiro opened a spacious four-hectare forest enclosure in 2014, and a new infant chimpanzee nursery facility in 2015.
The ICCN is tasked with monitoring and protecting all species in DR Congo, and it is with their dedication and assistance, particularly that of Radar Nishuli, chief of the Kahuzi Biega National Park, and Bernard Iyomi senior warden of Bili Reserve, that Kimia was able to be confiscated and brought to Lwiro.