Some of the chimpanzees at Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center (SYCRC) were kept as “pets” after their mothers were killed. Even with a family that tries to be caring, keeping a chimpanzee as a “pet” is damaging because it creates confusion and stress around the individual’s developing identity. Furthermore, when a cuddly baby chimpanzee becomes a toddler who can be stronger than an adult human, chains, cages and abuse become their reality.
Adolescents have an especially difficult time re-learning the essence of being a chimpanzee: coping with fear and anxiety caused by isolation and abuse, undoing the immeasurable affects of living directly with humans, acquiring the vaguely familiar language and lifestyle of chimpanzees, and most importantly, learning to be the individual they may have become had they never been stolen from the wild. Tati, Amigo, Jimi and Chouki were kept as “pets” when they were taken from the forest.
Today, at their own individual pace, they continue to learn about being chimpanzees and are enjoying life with their adopted families. Tati came to SYCRC in March 2006 and Amigo shortly thereafter, both as adolescents. Tati had been confined to a tree limb by a neck chain and Amigo was isolated in a backyard cage. Jimi, rescued in 2005, had been living with a human family and endured severe physical discipline leaving her right shoulder and arm permanently disabled. Chouki, because he did not know how to behave like a chimpanzee, was defenseless against attacks by chimpanzees at another sanctuary before he was brought to Sanaga-Yong in 2002 at the age of ten . Eye injuries have left him blind.
|Chouki lives with his family group of eight in an enclosure equipped with special accommodations to help him navigate. He loves to play with the younger chimpanzees and continues to climb for quiet time in the trees. Kiki Jackson remains his loyal and devoted best friend.|
|Tati and Amigo have become good friends and live together in a newly built enclosure. Amigo is the madcap, high-energy adopted older brother while Tati, who is quiet, gentle and easy going, has become the dominant one of the pair.|
|Before his rescue, Tati developed the habit of plucking hair from his arms, common among captive chimpanzees. It has diminished since his arrival at Sanaga-Yong.|
|Jimi lives with nine young juveniles in the nursery. She enjoys daily romps in the forest with her friends and spends a lot of time playing, grooming and socializing...just as she should be.|
In Cameroon it is illegal to kill, capture, buy, sell, eat or possess Great Apes. In the U.S. just 14 states have outlawed the keeping of primates as pets and approximately 15,000 primates are in private hands. Many are sold on the internet or through exotic animal dealers. Learn more about the federal “Captive Primate Safety Act” and what you can do to ensure its passage.
Although enforcement of Cameroon’s wildlife protection laws has improved slightly in the last few years, laws prohibiting the holding of chimpanzees by private individuals still has uneven enforcement – prominent, influential individuals often are tacitly exempted from the law.