One day, a team of rescuers from Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection came across a sad sight. They received an anonymous tip about a chimp who was in trouble.
They went to the supply shop where she was being held and found the tiniest baby chimp sitting inside a cardboard box, clinging to a tattered piece of clothing.
The one-year-old chimp, named Chance, was being kept as a pet for the past few months. The rescuers didn’t know how the ‘owners’ acquired Chance, but they had an idea.
“We know her mother was killed,” Jenny Desmond, founder of LCRP, told The Dodo. “One cannot acquire a baby chimpanzee without first killing his or her mother and other nearby adult family members.”
Since Chance was just a baby when her mother was killed, she had no one to properly take care of him and provide her the nutrition he needed.
Sadly, her new owners didn’t seem to care and just left her in a cardboard box in the corner.
“It seems she spent most of her time in the box, and when outside the box, on the concrete and dirt ground at the shop,” Desmond said. “It does not seem she was picked up or held very often as she has had to learn how to be picked up and cling to me since we rescued her.”
It was apparent that living in captivity had taken a serious toll on the baby chimp.
Rescuers said that her eyes appeared vacant and she was clinging to a piece of clothing as a source of comfort.
“Her rocking and clinging to the cloth are clear indicators of stress, trauma and a severe lack of attention and nurturing,” Desmond said.
Chance’s owners had only been feeding her rice and cornmeal, so she was severely malnourished and emaciated.
Not only was she underdeveloped for her age, but she appeared to have some sort of fluid build-up in her head that most likely resulted from trauma.
The rescuers quickly removed Chance from the shop and gave her a nice warm blanket to hold onto instead.
“We give all the little ones blankets at night and they are certainly welcome to carry them anytime,” Desmond said. “It is generally our experience, however, that their need for the blankets as unhealthy sources of comfort disappear rapidly with increased care and proper nurturing.”
Once the baby girl was transported to the LCRP rehabilitation center, the rescue team was stunned at her amazing change in behavior and attitude.
She started to become less dependent on the blanket.
Soon, Chance stopped rocking back and forth, started to stand up, and would hold out her arms to be held.
“She is progressing and recovering rapidly,” Desmond said. “We have found chimpanzees to be unbelievably resilient.”
One of the most incredible things that has made the rescuers’ hearts full is that Chance has started to smile and laugh.
Everyone has been overjoyed to watch her blossom in their care.
Chance will spend the next few years with LCRP and give her round-the-clock care to help her grow healthy and strong. Soon, she’ll be introduced to other young orphaned chimps.
“She will be introduced to other chimpanzees in a safe and slow process, allowing her to choose [the] level of interaction and time with other chimps,” Desmond said.
Right now, no one is sure if she’ll be released back into the wild, although, that would be the ideal scenario.
“Returning to the wild, known as reintroduction, is a long and complex process and while we dream of this it is not simple or assured,” Desmond said. “There is hope for chimpanzee reintroduction in Liberia as chimpanzees naturally occur here, and there are still large tracts of forest remaining. Reintroduction involves many factors and multiple groups and experts to assess and determine feasibility.”
Desmond has a feeling that Chance will most likely live in a “seminatural spacious forest environment with other chimpanzees for her lifetime.”
It’s been a few years since Chance was rescued, and she’s still very happy at the rescue. She has a playgroup of chimps that she loves hanging out with, and she also enjoys spending time cuddling with her caregivers. What a sweetheart.