Arvid is an orphaned chimpanzee who became a paraplegic in November 2009 after a severe case of meningitis. But a brand new sophisticated digital imagery device may soon give this little guy enough independence to help him walk again.
Arvid lives at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon. The region is a hotbed for meningitis that is often referred to as the “African meningitis belt.” It affects both humans and primates. And according to the World Health Organization there was an epidemic of the illness in 2009 that affected 14 countries with 78,416 cases reported.
In Defense of Animals, the international organization that supports the Chimpanzee Rescue Center, reported Arvid’s story on their website. They said the meningitis, an infection of the lining around the brain and spinal cord attacked his body so hard the chimpanzee fell into a coma and nearly died. When Arvid awoke several days later, he was blind, deaf and paralyzed.
He soon recovered his sight and hearing, but has remained a paraplegic. His caregivers hand feed him, keep him clean, and see that he is not left alone. The IDA story reported that just like a human with a disability Arvid gets frustrated by his limitations, but he also has his good days when his buddies visit or he gets his favorite foods.
Although Arvid cannot walk, he is slowly regaining use of his shoulders, arms and hands. Because of his strong spirit, IDA made a commitment to find a solution for the chimpanzee that would get him back to as much of his normal life as possible.
That’s when they found Michael Moor, a prosthetic and orthotic specialist from Portland, Oregon. Moor used Arvid’s measurements and sophisticated digital imagery to design a one-of-a-kind lightweight wheelchair that will “place Arvid’s arms and legs in a normal chimpanzee walking position.” The device will allow him to move around in all directions on his own.
The wheelchair can also be adjusted to bear more weight, so as Arvid grows stronger his body will rely less on the chair. IDA hopes this will ultimately help the chimpanzee regain full use of his legs.
Arvid is lucky to be alive after his bout with meningitis. The World Health Organization reported that the infection causes severe brain damage and can be fatal in 50 percent of cases if it goes untreated. The 2009 epidemic was the worst since 1996 with 4,053 human deaths. A new vaccine specifically for the strains of meningitis in Africa should be available by the end of 2010.
IDA-Africa currently cares for 66 orphaned chimpanzees at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center. Most of their mothers were slaughtered in the illegal, commercial bush meat trade. The young mothers who are protecting their offspring are considered to be easy prey by poachers.
The chimpanzee infants are often sold to resorts as entertainment or as pets to individuals.
Over the years the Rescue Center in Cameroon has given sanctuary to more than 100 great ape orphans. And once at the sanctuary they are free to live out their lives in a protected natural habitat. Click Here to read more about Arvid and IDA-Africa.
In Defense of Animals.