Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Congo:
Meet a Jane Goodall Institute care giver

Care Givers are vital in the fight to end poaching and protect endangered chimpanzees. Tchimpounga only exists thanks to their patience, kindness and love. Meet Antonette a very special team member who’s healed hundreds of chimps.

Rescued chimps are stolen from their mothers by poachers, often witness terrible violence and are forced to live in tiny cages with little food. This means the young orphan is in terrible physical and emotional condition on arrival at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre.

These tiny infants share 98% of their DNA with humans, so need urgent care to recover from their disturbing ordeal. This is where the Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) incredible local staff step in – especially our brilliant, gifted chimpanzee caregivers.

The VIPs behind the scenes

Tchimpounga would not exist without chimpanzee carers like Antonette. Her dedication and kindness enables the Jane Goodall Institute to give rescued endangered chimps the second chance they deserve. Antonette can only continue her vital work thanks to our generous monthly donors. Together, Chimp Guardians like you from all across the world help make that happen.

Orphan JeJe and his caregiver Antonette at the JGI’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo.

Introducing Antonette

Chimpanzees, like human children, have a long development period and often rely on their mothers until the age of eight or older. They are helpless for six months, dependent on their mothers for two years, and still cling until at least four years old.

When stolen chimps are traumatically torn from their mothers Antonette acts as their surrogate mother. Antonette devotes 24-hour care and affection to these babies when they arrive. Her goal is to make the baby chimpanzee feel protected, safe, and loved, as this early period is crucial for their psychological development. It has been a powerful journey for Antonette, and she has cared for a great many rescued orphans over the years.

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Caring through civil war

The Republic of the Congo’s capital of Brazzaville saw tremendous violence during the civil war. At the Brazzaville Zoo, where caregivers from the Aspinall Foundation cared for baby gorillas, both humans and animals were not safe. Therefore the Aspinall Foundation decided to move them to the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Centre to be secure away from the ongoing conflict.

Local resident Antonette was selected by the foundation given her experience to became one of the caregivers. She boldly took on the responsibility of caring for five infant gorillas during the war. With Anonette’s care and commitment to the infant gorillas they survived and were sent to a safe sanctuary to live out their lives in harmony.

Shortly after the war ended, Tchimpounga staff offered her a chimpanzee caregiver job at Tchimpounga, where she has been ever since.

Ebelle is a baby that arrived at Tchimpounga from a small village close to Imphondo city. He was kept as a pet.

Saving a species, one day at a time

A typical work day for Antonette looks very different to many of ours. Her offices are enclosures and forests, her commute is by boat along the Kouilou River and her colleagues include the 140 rescued chimpanzees that rely on her care!

A carer’s day starts with giving the chimps their first meal. For Antonette, looking after Tchimpounga’s youngest orphans, this means bottles of baby formula. 

Antonette found that caring for chimpanzee babies was very similar to caring for gorilla babies. She is a natural. In some ways, she realised, it’s like caring for human babies. Each one needs love, care and attention. Antonette shows patience to help them succeed, guides them to be their best, and ensures they grow up to be healthy, strong, social members of their integrated chimpanzee communities.

Providing a constant sense of love and protection is crucial to the babies’ rehabilitation. Antonette knows that through patience and love she can help the babies be their best. During her many years at Tchimpounga she’s nurtured some of our most traumatised chimps back to health and watched them grow to be strong, socially integrated members of their communities. 

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Healing the horrors of poaching

For Antonette her job never stops. Many of the babies come to Tchimpounga anxious and afraid after being violently torn from their mothers as a result of poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking. To help them overcome their deep trauma and suffering, 

Antonette fully embraces her surrogate mother role, dedicating herself to providing round the clock care, just as she did with her own children. This includes sleeping with the infant chimps and waking throughout the night for feedings. 

George, Vienna, Kabi and Tina with JGI caregiver Antonette.

Eat, play, sleep, repeat

Once the chimps have had their fill of food they’re free to relax, play and explore. Antonette escorts the babies to a nearby forest where they can safely climb the trees, splash in the streams and taste the plants under her doting eye.

Providing a constant sense of love and protection is crucial to the babies’ rehabilitation. During her many years at Tchimpounga she’s nurtured some of our most traumatised chimps back to full health.

For Antonette her job never stops. Many of the babies come to Tchimpounga anxious and afraid. To help them overcome their deep trauma and suffering,

Antonette fully embraces her surrogate mother role, dedicating herself to providing round the clock care, just as she did with her own children. This includes sleeping with the infant chimps and waking throughout the night for feedings.

With each chimpanzee, Antonette witnesses the terror and depression they arrive with disappear. This transformation has everything to do with her love, which transcends species.

How you can help

Our Chimp Guardian monthly donors fund the tireless efforts of super heroes like Antonette, who devote themselves to healing Tchimpounga’s rescued chimps. By becoming better informed and taking action through a donation to the Jane Goodall Institute together we can secure a future where wildlife can thrive, forests can return and chimpanzees are no longer endangered.

It’s only thanks to people like you that Antonette’s work is possible: we are so grateful to our Chimp Guardians for their continued, generous support!

Become a Chimp Guardian today


See for yourself below the connection Antonette has with Anzac, and all the other Tchimpounga infants who think of her as Mum:

 

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