Things have been moving ahead for the integration of Rosemary project. The welding is almost finished, the cracked and broken cement around the cage has been repaired and we are currently finishing up painting the cage to protect the metal from rusting in the humidity. There is still some work to do…
- Get wood cut and bolted on the four platforms
- Mesh needs to be put on one more connecting wall
- Put a cement pool/watering hole made for the girls cage as currently they still have NO access to water!
- I am hoping to get firehose and strong logs placed around the cage to encourage climbing
- I also hope to get the floors covered in leaves and branches from around the place so that the chimps can use something other than buscuit wrappers to nest build!
… So if all goes to plan Rosemary will be moved next week. It is frustrating how long everything takes here, and sometimes I feel like I am working hard yet often taking two steps back for every step taken forward. Things came to a halt last thursday when Cecilia refused to move to the room we were trying to mesh. At this point I was aware that If I wanted to take any time off I would have to do it now before Rosemary got transferred. So I decided to take the weekend off!
Kakum National Park and cape coast
So me and another volunteer took the bus to the coast for a couple of nights and enjoyed the sea breeze and finally some quiet! I dont think I realised how much I needed to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city. It is loud everywhere in Kumasi, including the Zoo. We were lucky enough to stay in a canopy tree house in the middle of Kakum national park and enjoyed both night walks and morning walks, where we saw several bushbabies and were even lucky enough to see a Potto!
Being in the forest again was so rejuvinating. Gosh I miss Cameroon! I was almost expecting a couple of baby chimpanzees to summersault infront of me and climb onto me like they used to. Gosh I miss happy chimpanzees! It reminded me how much these guys are missing out on, how rich chimpanzees lives should be, how unnatural their current lives are.
Monkey Forest Sanctuary
On our way back from Kakum National Park we stopped off at a monkey sanctuary. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive after reading some of the trip advisor reviews that the monkeys would be in terrible conditions. I was pleasently surprised. The sanctuary was founded by a dutch man 13 years ago. He passed away a couple of months ago and his nephew has come out and taken over. His nephew seems very compassionate and seems to really care for all of the animals at the sanctuary. He knows them all by name and has a unique relationship with each one. Some of the enclosures are small (due to lack of funding) by western standards but others are larger than many western zoos. He also is really attentive to all the species dietary needs and they get a varied and nutritional diet. I wish the guy luck, the place has a lot of potential and he seems to have the right mix of amition and common sence.
Back to reality…
We came back to the zoo last Monday and I got back into the swing of things. Luckily the Zoo staff had started painting the chimpanzee cages and doing some repairs and I have spent the last week helping. Its lovely to actually be doing something positive. Its also nice to not feel so alone out here in my plight for these chimpanzees.
All the chimpanzees here have their quirks, and these often manafest in their unique abnormal behaviour. Its sad but its true, they all have abnormal behaviours they have developed as a coping strategy. A common behaviour at the zoo is rocking. There have been times I have seen the whole family (Jimmy, Esther and Samson), sitting close to eachother all rocking back and forth. Its heartbreaking. This week I am going to tell you a bit about Esther…
Esther is the only chimp at the zoo who has had a baby. It suprises me that she managed to not only concieve and give birth but to care for the baby perfectly. When I came to Ghana in 2013 Samson was still young (approx. between one and two) and she was very protective of him and carried him around the place. Now he is older she gives him a little more space but still shares her food with him, grooms him and comforts him when he tantrums (which is often!). She still ruluctently breast feeds him. It would be hard for her to wean him when they are in such a tiny cage together and food is not abundant. He screams and screams when she refuses to let him feed and she ALWAYS gives in eventually. Chimp screams are a lot worse than human screams! Sometimes when she has no milk and he tries to feed, he has a huge tantrum and starts to hit her. She just tries to comfort him like a loving mother.
Samson has no hair on the sides and top of his head. this is because as he breastfeed she plucks his hair. This may sound cruel but it is in fact affectionate. This behaviour is common in captive chimpanzees, and is related to grooming. She wants to care for her baby, The only way she can do that is grooming and breastfeeding.. so she over grooms.
She has a few abnormal behaviours. The most common is Rocking. She rocks forward and backwards or from side to side violently. It is very hard to watch. For some unknown reason she likes to hold man made objects such as buscuit wrappers or rubbish in her hands as she does this. It seems to be an odd form of comfort for her.
She is a calm chimp compared to her boisterous boys, and spends much of her time picking through the food scraps for any little specks that may have been missed.
Next week I hope Rosemary will finally be moved, there is still little bits to get done, but fingers crossed! We are all working in the right direction. Unfortunatly stubborn Cecilia will not move out of the cage room we need to work on, so we are trying to negotiate with her at the moment.