On 13th February, 2008 we moved a 13 chimps from the Orphanage (8 km away) to the Trust land (Project Area). This group had under gone 3 years of integration by keepers from the Orphanage. However, we couldn’t move them to the trust land as there was no enclosure read for them. It was not until a new enclosure was built that we decided to move them. At the Orphanage, they occupied an area of 6 acres and now they occupy 75 acres of thick miombo forest the Project.
Amongst this group is a male chimp by the name of Chiffon. Despite been in a 75 acre out door enclosure, he always want to be on the wrong side of the fence. Prior to his arrival at Chimfunshi in April 2002, he was kept us a pet in Ivory Cost together with Berta (female chimp). They were voluntarily brought to Chimfunshi and their journey was covered by a private film crew from Botswana. Chiffon arrived in very good condition and full of life. While as a pet, he used to wear his favourite female dress known as Chiffon. These dresses were a big thing in the 80’s and 90′. This might explain why he was given such a name.
While under going integration, he craved for human and always wanted to be with them. With time, he learnt how to live with other chimps but his ever thinking mind never liked to be enclosed in a fence. He would skim plans and lead his friends into escaping. Even though they never caused any damage, this was a bad sign as it sent shock waves and panic amongst staff and people around. Every time he was under pressure in his small enclosure, he would find ways and means of escaping, hoping to get reassurance or support from humans. Been a problem maker never impressed his friends, some of them would refuse to follow him on his ‘adventures’.
With his group been moved to the Project Area, every one hoped that he would settle down in the huge space that was provided. He did well in the first six months; he never tried his escaping antiques. May be he was still studying the surroundings and trying to come up with a plan. It was not until we started constructing Sandy’s cage that he now wanted to investigate and see what was going on at the construction site. His first escape wasn’t anticipated because he jumped from a very tall tree and stood still for a few seconds, his legs were probably numb. Every one at the site was shocked with his determination of wanting to be on the other side of the fence.
The keepers performed their escape drills and in no time, he was locked in Sandy’s unfinished cage. The new cage kept him busy and he made use of the tools he found and eventually made his way out of the unfinished cage.
We managed to put him back into his original cage and then rectified the problem.
Such actions by chimps like this have prompted us into building chimp proof cages like the one below for Sandy. However, such enclosures deprive them of natural trees and the huge out door space that they are supposed to enjoy. Once completed, this can serve as his alternative home, even though we are still hopeful that he’ll stop his old habits and settle down in his natural enclosure.