Birdzilla Adventures - Mark and Becci in the Congo with Jane Goodall
Dr. Jane Goodall, the Republic of Congo, a place called Tchimpounga and orphan chimpanzees…
Mark and Becci Crowe just experienced it all. Observing wildlife in the wild and bearing witness to their challenges not only inspires their art & photography but enables them to tell the story of endangered animals… and just weeks ago they were with Dr. Jane Goodall in Tchimpounga to bear witness to the plight of chimpanzees and efforts to save them.
Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo was established by Dr. Jane Goodall in 1992 and is currently the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in Africa. It was created to provide care for orphans of the bushmeat trade. In addition to habitat loss, the illegal commercial bushmeat trade is now one of the most serious threats to chimpanzees. It is the large-scale killing of chimpanzees for meat. Poachers kill the adults for meat and then take the babies to sell on the black market as pets. There are over 160 orphans at Tchimpounga - victims of the bushmeat and exotic pet trade. Many of them have lived here for years and are now adults.
Even chimps like a selfie
Staff artist Becci Crowe picking up a few tips from a local artist.
Mark and Becci Crowe with Dr. Jane Goodall
Preparing to release the chimpanzees in their new home.
Mark and Becci’s first chimpanzee sighting was driving into the Tchimpounga compound and seeing the younger orphans in their outdoor enclosure. Becci describes that first encounter, “As we stood facing the chimpanzees on the other side of the fence, they were as curious about us as we were about them. I’ve always heard how intelligent they are, but the depth and intensity of their gaze as they looked into my eyes took me by surprise.” Chimpanzees share 98% of our DNA.
The Crowe’s 10 days at Tchimpounga with Dr. Goodall were filled with 4-wheel driving through rough roads hacked through the jungle, camping in the forest, and boat trips up the Ngongo and Kouilou Rivers to see the mandrill and orphan chimpanzee release sites. The Jane Goodall Institute is expanding Tchimpounga using three islands in the nearby Kouilou River. The islands offer the chimpanzees a much larger, natural setting where monitoring and care can still be provided. Mark and Becci had the unique opportunity to assist Dr. Goodall and the JGI staff in releasing 2 orphan chimpanzees onto one of these new island homes.
Young orphaned chimps.
Chimpanzees are listed as endangered by the IUCN. The United States has recognized wild chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) but has not provided the same level of protection for chimpanzees held captive in this country. This has enabled exploitation of chimpanzees in the US as pets, for entertainment, advertising and medical research—a situation that also has hampered efforts to promote protection of wild chimpanzees. Now, as of June 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that all chimpanzees, whether captive or wild, will have the same endangered status and receive the same level of protection under the Endangered Species Act. This is a landmark milestone for chimpanzee conservation.
Staff Photographer Mark Crowe
Visit Becci's web site for more on her art and conservation efforts.