Calamity: one of Tchimpounga’s first


Calamity arrived at Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in 1991, when she was just four years old. She was transferred to Tchimpounga from Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, along with Cristophe, Jo, Flo and Jim. These five chimps were Tchimpounga’s first.

Now, Calamity and her cohort are almost thirty years old and have grown into full adults. Calamity is has formed many close relationships with her peers and, contrary to her name, her presence often provides a sense of stability in the group. She is also a role model figure for many of her fellow chimpanzees, who will copy her behavior. During her time in the forest, Calamity has figured out how to open hard palm nuts by hitting them with a big chunk of wood, and how to find cool drinking water in the hollows of old trees. Her peers have learned these skills as well by watching her.

Head caregiver at Tchimpounga, Jean Moboto, recalled Calamity’s orderly behavior as a teenager. When she and the other chimpanzees would head out to play in the nearby forest, she would keep track of the the time. When the time for play was up, Calamity would approach Maboto, grasping his hand to inform him. If he didn’t acknowledge her right away, she would insist, pushing him until he started to move back to the dormitories. This punctual chimp’s antics are a memory, Maboto said, he won’t soon forget.

About Author

Sarah Ruiz is a communications intern at the Jane Goodall Institute. She is currently studying science communication at the College of William and Mary and hopes to pursue a career as a journalist. She is interested in all branches of science, with a specific focus on issues of conservation and ecology.