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The forest where the species meet

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04 September 2015
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The small chimpanzee David - Ape Action Africa


There is a little piece of the world in which human and non-human primates live in peace and fun and where non-humans receive all the respect and care that is possible and humans have in exchange a lot of friendship and affection.

As always looking for realities in support of non-human people, persecuted and massacred by our species, some time ago I came across in a movie in which a passionate woman said something like: "We have no economic means or instruments, but we know how to keep alive a small gorilla that threatens to die for the serious traumas he suffered”. Certanly, it’s because the baby apes, orphaned and imprisoned by men, often die from the emotional pain, refusing food and sinking into depression.

That woman was Rachel Hogan, the Director of the Reserve Sanctuary Ape Action Africa in Cameroon. A few months after I was there to offer my cooperation to this very valuable organization. To find love and competence integrated is not granted and here, in the forest of Cameroon, it is possible to meet precisely this mixture, which obviously is the best winning formula.
Rachel Hogan, the Deputy Director Larry Taylor, the Manager and Veterinarian Babila Tafon - Babs, the Coordinator Apollinaire Ndohoudou and all the Staff are sincerely fond of non-human primates and expert operators in the sector.


The embrace among the psychologist Mariangela Ferrero and David - Ape Action Africa

Working with the team of Ape Action Africa was a real pleasure, because of the common purpose and points of view, for the kindness always present and because of the joyful relationships that go punctuating every day of this forest Reserve. A chimpanzee, a human and a gorilla playing together, not far a human foster mother looks after a small chimpanzee; farther a gorilla and a human are observing one each other, while a man and a chimpanzee discuss about donkeys.

In fact, the chimpanzee Roney is afraid of donkeys and does not want to go through a transition in their vicinity; the man tells him that they are not dangerous and that he and Roney can go together, but the latter asked him in gestures to send them away, because he is afraid of them anyway. So the man sends away the donkeys and Roney, after opening the door by himself, passes alone.
Wonderful interspecies meetings, but mostly non-human primates are to one another, because they need above all to live their society and their culture. Humans watch over them and try to interfere as little as possible, intervening only in times of need.

There are forest areas and separate areas for puppies, subjects in quarantine, young and adult chimpanzees, gorillas of different age or primates of various species. Each group has its own piece of forest.
Besides Ape Action Africa doesn’t work only to provide a Sanctuary for primates orphaned by poachers, to rehabilitate and to protect them, but also to pursue their defense by working closely with Cameroonian people, through social support and education about animal conservation and environment.


The gorilla Lucy while is playing - Ape Action Africa

My concrete contribution to the Project Ape Action Africa, apart from the daily help to clean and arrange the areas in which the guests of the Sanctuary live, was as some other times the PME. The Play Picture Making Music Emotional Enrichment is the experimental method with which I try to improve the psychosocial wellness of the Great Apes, through play, relationship, painting activity and playing music.

So it was that I had the great fortune to become good friends with the chimpanzee Samboroo and to play music with the little David and the gorilla Chickaboo and Lucy.
None of them showed particular inclination towards painting but, if I had stayed longer, we might have ended up "creating a musical band", given their increasing involvement in playing drums, maracas and piano!
Chickaboo and Lucy are two strong and nice girls, reserved but playful and curious, who are for now the only inhabitants of their area and who need some new stimulation and fun.


The chimpanzee Samboroo - Ape Action Africa

Chickaboo has even rhythmically played a maraca for two minutes, accompanying me while I was playing the drum; Lucy instead took a percussion to the forest and I heard her while playing it through the trees.

Samboroo had meningitis as a child and now his limbs do not allow him to move well; It found himself unable to get enough food and to have an adequate social life with his peers. For this he was included in the group of infants, which is mainly looked after and is more within his reach.
He needs to acquire more social skills in relation with the other chimpanzees, to improve his self-confidence and to combat the frustration that is forced to live. We formed a good alliance and made common games along with the rest of the group.

David lost his mother and his group of origin very early and he must have made tremendous efforts to survive and to take care of himself. He was kept in a small cage inside of an hotel, as an attraction for tourists. When I met him, two months after his arrival, he still showed signs of discomfort; he did not want to be touched, rocked very often and played in an hectic and quite aggressive way.
He needed to combat loneliness, to became able to be touched and to receive comfort, to learn to better modulate his emotions of a survived and hyper-autonomous baby. It was wonderful to see him changing as the work progressed; staying in a relationship, acquiring the ability to modulate his impulses, having fun in playing musical instruments, but also the floor and everything else available, including my back. It was moving to be able to embrace, caress and console him in our lasts sessions.


One of the operators with the chimpanzees - Bee Ape Action Africa

David first began to alternate opposite approaches, impetuous or adhesives to supposed expectations, and then he gradually reached to modulate more and more his sound playing music and his behavior in the play, together modulating his emotions too. At the same time he allowed me to physical contact more and more frequent and intense with him, who after began to actively search for it.
Certainly not only thanks to my contribution, but mainly thanks to his deep inner resources and the excellent work of the Sanctuary, now David is happily placed in a group of peers, with whom he is finally able to relate, play and share affection.

Key aspect for the success of interventions to improve the wellness similar to PME is to work in integration with the various figures involved in a rehabilitation’s Center; it is important that the intervention takes the moves from the observation of the individual and his/her needs from several points of view, and that it proceeds into a way shared with the operators, so that everyone, for their skills, will work in the same direction.

The enormous value of the work of Ape Action Africa is in the eyes of the inhabitants of the Reserve, more than 300.
To support it visit  www.apeactionafrica.org  and make a donation or give your time as a volunteer. You will support a project of fundamental benefit for animals and environment and of humanly high-caliber kind.


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