In December 2013, the whole world discovered the female chimpanzee Wounda and the emotional hug that she gave Dr Jane Goodall before returning into the wild. A year later, Wounda has perfectly adapted to life in the forest.
One year ago, numerous media outlets reported the reintroduction into the forest of Wounda, one of the chimpanzees looked after by the Tchimpounga Rehabilitation Centre of the Jane Goodall Institute of Congo-Brazzaville. After having been snatched from the arms of her mother by some poachers, and having suffered some serious illnesses, Wounda, whose name means “on the edge of death”, moved the public with her reintroduction into her natural environment. But no one could have imagined that the primate, before heading towards the forest, would spontaneously return and embrace the renowned 80-year-old primatologist Dr Jane Goodall. Dr Goodall confided in us that it was one of the most surprising and moving moments in her life. Nobody could have imagined the extent to which this gesture would become viral on social media, thanks to this video.
Today, a year after this touching encounter, the Jane Goodall Institute Belgium is happy to announce that Wounda has adapted very well to her natural habitat and has made close friendships with the other chimpanzees released back into the wild on the island of Tchindzoulou. This island of 100 hectares is supervised by the staff of the Jane Goodall Institute. To supplement the chimpanzees’ natural diet, local cooperatives provide fruit and vegetables. The JGI Congo team, managed by the Spanish vet Rebeca Atencia, have already successfully reintroduced more than 30 chimpanzees onto the islands of the Kouilou river. This complex and costly project has been made possible by amongst other things the support of members and donors of the Jane Goodall Institute Belgium. They have offered a new chance of life for these animals, with which we share almost 99% of our DNA.
The chimpanzees and the other great apes are greatly under threat from the loss of their natural habitat (through deforestation, fragmentation and human activities) and from poaching for bushmeat and illegal trafficking. The United Nations estimates that 3000 great apes are hunted and exported every year. Between now and 2030, 90% of the habitats of the African great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos) will be affected by human activity, and 99% of the habitats of the Asian great apes (orang-utans)!
The Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre, founded in the Republic of Congo by Jane Goodall, is the biggest in Africa and accommodates 160 chimpanzee orphans, victims of hunting and illegal trafficking. The chimpanzees could reach age 60 or older in captivity, and the centre is committed to taking care of them for their whole lives.