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Chimpanzee Omega Rescued, Now in Brazilian Sanctuary

Omega, a twelve year old chimpanzee, was safely flown to a sanctuary in Brazil after being rescued from a zoo in southern Lebanon. Animals Lebanon was notified about the small zoo in April 2010, and successfully worked with the owner to close down the zoo and send the animals to sanctuaries.

Omega was used in a restaurant for two years when he was still young, serving narguileh water pipes to customers. After he was no longer able to be controlled, Omega was given to the zoo and has languished alone for the last nine years in a small cage. Located in the village of Ansar, the zoo was built on the grounds of what used to be a detention camp during Lebanon's civil war. The owner recognized that the animals are not being kept in appropriate conditions and agreed to turn over all animals.

The Curitiba sanctuary in Brazil has agreed to care for Omega for the rest of his life, and this will be the first time he has seen another chimpanzee in ten years. "The transfer of the chimpanzee is a complex operation and is following all the procedures in order to provide a safe transfer from Lebanon and guarantee a good adaption of the animal in the sanctuary facilities. It also represents the importance of partnerships between countries in different continents when it comes to defend great primates' rights," explained the sanctuary spokesperson.
A team from Animals Lebanon left Beirut early Monday Morning for the 90 minute drive to the zoo. Moving Omega from the cage at the zoo to the crate he would travel in during the flight required special care, and Dr. An Pas of the Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in UAE came to Lebanon to ensure this move went safely.

Omega was very calm in his cage despite the activity going on nearby. He was able to be sedated quickly and once asleep was carried out of the cage on stretcher. In only one hour he was given a general health check and placed in the transport crate. Omega woke up, and for the first time in ten years he had a view of the world other than looking out from his cage. Arriving at the airport, Omega had one last meal and everyone involved in the rescue said their goodbyes before he was flown to Brazil.

�Obviously transporting animals requires the highest degree of care and special handling, from when we accepted the chimpanzee for carriage in Lebanon, right through to when we delivered Omega to the sanctuary in Sao Paulo,� said Dave Gould, Emirates� Senior Vice President Cargo Operations Worldwide. "An operation like this can only go to plan with nothing less than total cooperation from everyone involved - from the team at Animals Lebanon to the captain of the aircraft to customs authorities to the cargo handlers. This was a true joint effort from the outset and we are very proud to have played a role delivering Omega to his new home."

"There is still no licensing or regulating of zoos in Lebanon," said Lana El-Khalil, President of Animals Lebanon. "This is the third zoo we have worked to close down, and until the remaining zoos meet international standards Animals Lebanon will continue to campaign to have conditions drastically improve or the zoos closed. Omega finally got his opportunity at a better life, a chance which all chimpanzees in Lebanon need."

Chimpanzees and other highly endangered wildlife continue to be smuggled into and through Lebanon, and recently have been found at a gas station and restaurant, and in private animal collections. Lebanon is one of the few remaining countries which have not yet joined the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the main international convention which should protect these animals.

Thank you to the Anami Conservationist Institute and the Curitiba Sanctuary in Brazil for caring for Omega for the rest of his life, the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for providing funds to help with this transfer, Emirates SkyCargo for flying Omega at reduced cost, and all Animals Lebanon supporters who donated so generously to make this rescue possible.

Click here to see the Associated Press video of this move.

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