The Man Who Rescued An Orphaned Chimp Wants People To Know The Whole Story

"...it’s a cute movie, but the message is that that little chimp should be with his mom..."

 In late February, Belgian aviator Anthony Caere posted a video on social media of him ferrying a baby chimpanzee to the Lwiro Primate Rehab Center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The short clip showed the orphaned chimp, whose name is Mussa, cuddling up to Caere during the flight, causing Instagram viewers to remark upon how cute the chimp's interactions with Caere were.

In a recent interview with PBS NewsHour reporter Julia Griffin, Caere noted that yes, the video is adorable, but that it's just as important to discuss how it came to be in the first place.

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"It's actually a very sad story, because they took that little chimp away from his family," he told Griffin. "They killed his family."

 Mussa was taken from the wild and sold as a pet after poachers killed his family for meat. According to the World Wildlife Fund, conservationists believe that "the bushmeat trade is now the greatest threat to forest biodiversity in West and Central Africa."

While slaughtered adult chimps are sold as food, the babies are often sold as pets. Working with Lwiro, Caere helps to save the animals, which are often starved and wounded from mistreatment. According to NewsHour, the center cares for six dozen chimpanzees and over 100 monkeys, helping to nurse them back to health. Mussa is now a part of the center. Caere posted a pic of the happier primate enjoying some fruit along with the caption, "My 'Son' Mussa is doing Well! I wish you a happy life sweet little guy!"

Although things worked out for Mussa, the pilot made sure to remind that it didn't have to be this way at all. "I hope the people not only say, OK, it's a cute movie, but the message is that that little chimp should be with his mom, and not on my lap," he told NewsHour.

Chimpanzees are one of the animals on the endangered species list, with their population at less than 300,000 worldwide. According to the Jane Goodall Institute, chimpanzees now only live in 21 African countries, and the loss of their habitat is one of the greatest threats they face. Chimps are also susceptible to 140 human diseases and their growing proximity to the human population puts them more at risk. 

Those interested in helping to protect chimps from extinction can consider donating to or working with Lwiro, Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, the World Wildlife Fund, the Jane Goodall Institute, the Wildlife Conservation Society and many other organizations whose goal is to help protect wildlife that is on the brink of extinction.

Cover image courtesy Anthony Caere.

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