Guinea Sanctuary Returns Chimpanzees to Forests in West Africa in Landmark Reintroduction Project

8 July 2008 General News

Fifteen West African chimpanzees that were confiscated from poachers and illegal traders have been reintroduced back into the forests in Guinea, the first attempt to return rehabilitated chimpanzees to the wild in over a decade.


 The Centre de Conservation pour Chimpanzes (CCC) sanctuary spent years helping the chimpanzees recover from their physical and emotional injuries, but always regarded reintroduction as its ultimate goal. The CCC worked closely with experts from Europe and North America to ensure that the reintroduction would not threaten wildlife - including small populations of wild chimpanzees - near the reintroduction site.

 The chimpanzees - six males and nine females -- were released on June 27 into the Parc Nacional du Haut Niger, and have already begun to roam freely through the forests.

 "So far they are using a four-square kilometers area and are already fully independent of us," said Estelle Raballand, director of the CCC. "We've tried to give them supplemental feeding but they don't even come."

 The chimpanzees are fitted with radio tracking collars and teams of researchers will monitor their movements through satellite and VHF updates for a minimum of the next five years. The early indications are that the females range more widely, while the males appear to have split into two sub-groups.

 The CCC was founded in 1996 as a sanctuary for confiscated chimpanzees from the illegal bushmeat trade in Guinea, and is a charter member of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA).

 "This is an historic event for chimpanzees in Africa," said Doug Cress, executive director of PASA. "For too long, the sanctuaries have been regarded as a final stop in the life cycle of rescued and rehabilitated primates. But by encouraging our member sanctuaries to practice reintroduction where possible, we restore value to the animals, the forests, and natural heritage of host countries."

 The CCC release is the first since the HELP-Congo sanctuary initiated a reintroduction program in 1996, and ultimately returned 37 chimpanzees to the forests in the Republic of Congo. Over 62 percent of those chimpanzees ultimately survived, and went on to produce six offspring - including a set of twins.

 Last November, the CERCOPAN sanctuary in Nigeria also embarked upon a reintroduction program, returning guenon monkeys to the Iko Esai Forest. Future primate reintroduction projects are scheduled for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Congo and Gabon.

 Despite the CCC reintroduction, more than 30 chimpanzees still reside at main compound in Guinea, and more than 750 are found at the other PASA sanctuaries across Africa. Chimpanzees are listed as "endangered" as a result of illegal hunting, logging and human encroachment, and experts predict they could become extinct in the wild within the next 50 years at the current rate of decline.

 The CCC reintroduction program is the culmination of five years' intense preparation, which included surveys of potential release areas and wild populations, government negotiations, veterinary health-checks, behavioral studies, conservation education outreach programs, and fund-raising.

 The CCC reintroduction was made possible through the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Arcus Foundation, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Swedish Chimpanzee Trust, the International Primate Protection League (IPPL), Tusk Trust, Fauna and Flora International (FFI), the Lefa Corridor Gold Project, and private donors to Project Primate Inc., among others.

 PASA was formed in 2000 to unite the sanctuaries that care for chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, drills and literally thousands of other endangered primates across Africa. For more information, please visit or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Pan African Sanctuary Alliance 2008

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