She’s the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, according to the New York Times and pretty much everyone else on the planet. According to Wounda the chimp, however, she’s a friend — and the lady responsible for saving her life. Her name is Dr. Jane Goodall.
Dr. Goodall, a primatologist and animal activist, has been studying chimpanzees since 1960. Among her many accomplishments is the establishment 20 years ago of the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo. The center serves as a sanctuary for more than 160 orphaned and abandoned chimps who are refugees from the illegal commercial bushmeat and pet trades.
Wounda was rescued by staffers from Tchimpounga. When found, she was mere skin and bones, desperately ill and near death. In fact, the name “Wounda” means “close to dying.”
Reports say it took years of rehabilitation and care before Wounda was fit enough to return to the wild. Dr. Rebeca Atencia, manager of the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center and head of the Jane Goodall Institute-Congo, was responsible for much of that care. She is credited by Dr. Goodall with bringing Wounda “back from the dead.”
On June 20, 2013, the long anticipated day finally arrived. Wounda became the fifteenth chimpanzee to be released to the sanctuary’s Tchindzoulou Island.
She was transported to the island by boat down the Kouilou River, accompanied by Dr. Goodall and Dr. Atencia. Once there, volunteers slid open the door of Wounda’s travel crate. She bounded out eagerly, turned back to cuddle with Dr. Atencia, and then leapt on top of the crate.
Seconds later came a moment between two species that absolutely no one could misinterpret. Without prompting or encouragement, Wounda turned to face Dr. Goodall and wrapped her arms around her, giving her a long and affectionate hug.
Grab a hanky and watch it happen at 3:10 in this video:
Wounda now roams free and happy with others of her kind. Her life is restored, thanks to the incredible work of Jane Goodall’s team in the Congo.
Dr. Goodall hopes she will eventually have the funding to place 60 of her rescued chimps on Tchindzoulou Island. She plans to expand the sanctuary to include three islands — Tchindzoulou, Tchibebe and Ngombe — which were provided for this cause by the Congolese government.
For the chimps, the islands represent a new jungle home in which they can live as freely as nature intended while remaining securely under the protection and continued care of the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center staff. Chimps even have a dormitory in which they can sleep, if they choose to use it.
The center never turns away a chimp in need, which means that it’s now caring for five times as many chimps as it was originally designed to accommodate. The need for expansion is a given, and money is the only obstacle. Dr. Goodall intends to see it done.
Dr. Jane Goodall turns 80 in 2014 and amazingly is still on the road more than 300 days out of the year. She lectures, she speaks with reporters, she meets with government officials, she writes books, she fundraises.
On behalf of her beloved chimpanzees, she fights. And fights. And fights. Dr. Jane Goodall is a hero for the animal cause. May she live many more years and save many more chimps.
Photo credit (all photos): Fernando Turmo / Jane Goodall Institute