Fleet of “Moms” Rescue Baby Chimps and Surprise Quarrel Erupts

For a baby chimpanzee in the African rainforest, the world is only as big as a mother’s arms. So when that mother is suddenly taken, there’s a massive rush to fill the void.

A joint mission to save Beni involved several surrogate "moms"... not one of them female!

The Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, United Nations Great Apes Survival Partnership and MONUSCO peacekeeping forces all had a hand in one such rescue of a two-year-old female chimpanzee Beni, named after the town in which she had been kept in captivity. It is believed that Beni’s mother was killed by bushmeat hunters and she was being kept illegally as a pet by a local family.

Chimpanzees as pets have zero chance of long term happiness and they are often tied in chains or kept in boxes when they have grown big enough to become a threat to the people around them. It was imperative for rescuers to get Beni to safety and into the hands of those who understand what a baby chimpanzee needs. Though the field rescue team was male, they got the fleeting chance to protect the young ones as only a mom can do.

A Quarrel Over Who Would Hold the Babies
The real clamor to assume guardianship over Beni began when she and another baby named Mbandaka arrived at the Lwiro Primate Center’s nursery ward. Although most of them are only babies themselves, within the nursery unit there was quite a squabble over who would get to hold the new arrivals.

Family bonds are critically important to the emotional well being of chimpanzees.

“The other infants all fought over the new little ones and who would get to carry them around,” explains volunteer Rebecca Jones. “In particular, Lulinga (a 5 year old female) takes care of the new baby Mbandaka and carries her around on her back just like a mother chimpanzee would. She also sleeps with Mbandaka every night while Beni preferred to sleep with a human keeper.”

While there is excitement amongst the resident chimpanzees, the arrival of these new chimpanzees is met with a different mix of emotions from the rescue staff here.

A play structure provides the perfect spot for the young ones to swing and climb

“When a new animal arrives, there is no joy at all,” Andrea Edwards explains. “This infant has just lost its whole family to illegal trade. They are sick, depressed and very, very scared. Usually they have been with hunters, soldiers or middle men for several days or longer. Therefore they have not seen real food or water since this time. It can either be difficult to get them to accept these from you, or some babies are the opposite, they will become aggressive because they think you will try to take it away. When they realize you won’t remove the food and water, they become more settled. For the fist day or two, normally they do not like to be touched or held. Everything is a struggle. This is the hardest time. They are in cages when they should be in the forest with their family.”

International Support

The Harmony Fund is hosting Chimp Week on behalf of chimpanzee rescue centers in Congo and Cameroon. Learn about efforts to bring food, medicine and round-the-clock care to chimpanzees here.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Patti Ruocco
Patti Ruocco3 years ago

Bush meat, a tradition that needs to be left in the past....too many people think they can eat anyone...soon we will be at the point of 'Soilent Green'...but how do you wake up the conscience of the common man who would need to change his whole value paradigm? With the hardest thing to give them--love and support....hard to tell them to stop without making them defensive or even aggressively defensive...much like whaling....to help transform a humans conscience and crate empathy for those different from him, it takes time, commitment and a spiritually mature soul. I am grateful for those that give of themselves to save the innocent....

Jane R.
Jane R4 years ago

Thanks to all who help these poor animals. Shame on the bushmeat hunters.

Claudia Cavallo
Claudia Cavallo4 years ago

Who are we anyway to treat other cratures this way? All animals deserve to live in peace and with their similars and family

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G4 years ago


Neil A.
Neil A4 years ago

Why do they want to eat meat?? when there is so much good vegetable & fruit around! & especially bushmeat what a bad name!

B Jackson
BJ J4 years ago

There will be no end to man's cruelty until there is an end to man.

Latonya W.
Latonya W4 years ago

wow what a story.......I love people who care:)

Vicky K.
Vicky K4 years ago

KUDOS has brought tears to my eyes!