Tchimpounga Stories of Hope: Lemba, Perrine, & Kimenga

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The Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center provides shelter and care for over 140 chimpanzees whose families fell victim to the illegal wildlife trade. Divided among eight age-related areas, and three forested islands, every chimpanzee at Tchimpounga receives individualized attention from a group of over 50 staff and caregivers.  

Every rescued chimpanzee at Tchimpounga has a unique personality, bringing fun, joy, and hope to their adoptive family. Learn more about three of them below, and stay tuned for stories about other members of this very special community. 

Lemba

Lemba 

2021 was a very eventful year for Lemba. Lemba lives with partial paralysis from polio, and in 2019 she was introduced to Lounama, another chimpanzee with special needs due to a pre-existing heart condition. Since their introduction, they lived quietly as friends in an isolated setting apart from larger groups. 

Sadly, Lemba lost Lounama due to her heart condition in February 2021, and thereafter caregivers carefully introduced Lemba into a small, peaceful group under close supervision. Lemba quickly formed a strong relationship with Mbebo, the group’s dominant male, and she has continued to bond with him as a partner and playmate over the course of the year. 

Rescued infant chimpanzee Perrine in the JGI Tchimpounga sanctuary garden (Photo by JGI/Fernando Turmo)

Perrine 

Perrine recently joined Tchimpounga’s nursery group, and she has quickly become everyone’s favorite. She is especially adoring and doting, and many reciprocate her affection. Rather delightfully, Perrine has a tendency to embrace others in the group. In general, this behavior can indicate a need to feel safe or reassured, but for Perrine it appears simply to be a way for her to express affection and fondness for her partners. 

Kimenga 

Orphan Kimenga (Photo by JGI/Fernando Turmo)

Kimenga came to his current group in 2020 after, unfortunately, the Tchimpounga chimpanzees at Tchibebe and Ngombe sanctuary Islands rejected him. Kimenga is uncommonly clever, and in his prior habitat he often mimicked his human caregivers through prolonged bipedal walking and other quirks.  

2021 could have been a difficult year for Kimenga as he integrated into a new group, especially because he also sustained and recovered from a leg fracture in the first half of the year. Instead, Kimenga has reduced his atypical behavior and learned to socialize successfully, improving his rapport with the other chimpanzees and gaining confidence and community in the process. 

About Author

Ashley Sullivan is the Associate Director of Communications & Partnerships at the Jane Goodall Institute USA, where she works to connect individuals with Dr. Jane Goodall's vision, and the JGI mission to create a better world for all by protecting the interconnections between people, other animals, and the environment. Ashley graduated Stony Brook University with a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology and a minor in Biology, and is currently a Master's of Science Candidate for Environmental Science & Policy at Johns Hopkins University with a focus on Environmental Justice. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, now a D.C. resident, she has a varied background including nearly 10 years of expert communications and digital marketing in the social and environmental non-profit sector. Her intersectional approach to this work has been shaped by a holistic world-view, having traveled to Madagascar and Ecuador for conservation research projects, leading communications for youth social justice filmmaking programs, and as a part of several professional groups advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in environmental spaces. With skills ranging from conservation fieldwork, policy and advocacy campaigns, strategic communications, art, digital media, and design, Ashley believes in sharing information to empower and in the magic of storytelling to change hearts and minds. Through growing understanding, empathy, and justice, she is igniting positive change to create that better, more equitable world, every day.