Gran Canaria chimp Africa rescued at last
09 June 2009
TV vet Scott Miller joined Cambridge based charity MONA-UK's primate rescue team to seize an illegally held pet chimpanzee called Africa from a home in Gran Canaria.
Scott Miller said: "It was awful to see how she had been living for the last 12 years. She had been confined in a dilapidated house and never allowed outside, out of fear that the authorities might discover her. I feel privileged to be able to help Africa get to the sanctuary where she will meet other chimps and get the chance to be a chimp again."
Africa's owner in Gran Canaria works at the harbour where she arrived with three other baby chimps.
They were all taken from the wild in Africa and illegally smuggled to Gran Canaria. Africa's mother and other family members were probably killed during her capture. So not only had she witnessed the brutal killing of her family, she would then have to endure travelling by boat, in dirty cramped conditions. For every 10 illegally trafficked chimps, 9 will die in transit.
MONA-UK's director Dr Lorraine Docherty said: "Africa had already shown some aggression towards a family member so we were keen to get her out before the unthinkable happened. Chimpanzees of this age are usually very unpredictable and they can be dangerous.
"It is like having a ticking time bomb in your living room. We all are aware of Travis a pet chimp in the US who was shot dead after attacking a woman. Is this not evidence enough that chimps don't make good pets?"
Africa's rescue went very well but it took 24 hours to get her to the sanctuary because there were no direct cargo flights from Gran Canaria to Girona where the sanctuary is located. The team were exhausted when they arrived at the sanctuary but Africa had remained calm in the crate through -out the journey and was in good spirits when she arrived to her new home.
Africa is now at the sanctuary and she is settling in very well. She has a severe skin condition covering her head and the top of her shoulders. It is being treated with aloe vera cream every day to moisture the dry cracked skin and it's looking much better already.
Mona sanctuary director and vet Olga Feliu told us: "We are giving her lots of attention and TLC which she will need for a while until she is confident enough to meet the other chimps. Overall she is a calm and confident individual and we are certain that she will be integrated very soon."