In the middle of the night, a baby chimpanzee is having nightmares. Chantal, his caretaker, tries to soothe him back to sleep. She works at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center, in the Republic of the Congo, in Africa.
The chimp’s name is George. He was taken from his mother by poachers poacher a person who kills or captures wild animals illegally (noun) Poachers pose a danger to endangered species. . Eventually, he was rescued and taken to the sanctuary, where Chantal helped him make friends with the other chimpanzees.
The sanctuary is part of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI). “We rescue chimps from horrible conditions and socialize them,” Goodall told TIME for Kids. “They need to learn chimp behavior. If one loses its mother when it’s tiny, it’s like a human child losing its mother.”
Chimpanzees are victims of deforestation and the illegal wildlife trade. Their population, numbering in the millions a century ago, could be down to 172,000. This makes the work of the Tchimpounga sanctuary even more important.
“An ecosystem is made up of a complex mix of plants and animals,” Goodall says. “They all have a role to play. So as you begin to lose them, the ecosystem gets weaker and weaker. It may then collapse.”
At its opening, in 1992, Tchimpounga had space for 60 chimpanzees. It has since expanded to the size of a hundred football fields--, and houses around 150 chimps. Many live on forested islands in the Kouilou River. (See “Island Home.”) In that environment, the chimps are prepared for a possible return to the wild.
The chimps aren’t the only ones getting an education. The sanctuary airs documentaries on local television, and works with law enforcement and government in the Republic of the Congo to reduce illegal trade in animals.
These efforts are paying off, Tchimpounga head veterinarian Rebeca Atencia said, in an interview last year. “We have effectively stopped the arrival of orphan chimpanzees to Tchimpounga. We’ve received only one orphan chimp over the past three years. This is a great achievement that shows us that our efforts are working.”
As a JGI director, Atencia also works with people who live near the sanctuary. They rely on the forest for food and building materials, and their growing population is a danger to chimps. JGI helps these communities get healthcare, clean water, and fuel. This makes them less dependent on the area’s natural resources.
“The people in the Republic of the Congo have so many problems, so the problems facing the chimpanzees don’t seem that important,” Goodall says. “So when we’re there to help, it’s beneficial for everybody.”
The chimps of Tchimpounga would probably agree. They’ve shown that they’re aware of the sanctuary staff’s efforts. “Saving the life of a chimpanzee is very gratifying gratifying satisfying (adjective) It was gratifying to get an A on the math test. ,” Atencia says. “Chimpanzees know when you’ve helped them or saved their life. Sometimes, they thank you with a hug.”
In this photo, Atencia (left) and Goodall are helping to release Wounda, a female chimp, in 2013. Chimpanzees at the Tchimpounga sanctuary are taught how to live in the wild. Then they can be released. There are islands in the Kouilou River that provide a near-wild forest within the sanctuary where the chimps can live. There, they can be safe from wild chimpanzees, poachers, and disease. And they’re still under the care of sanctuary staff.
* This photo represents a sanctuary context with trained professionals. JGI does not endorse handling or close proximity to wildlife.