In Defense of Animals
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Dr. Sheri Speede

Today, as I walked the periphery of our forested electric enclosure with Jacky and Nama, current alpha male and female, respectively, we all heard the not-too-distant calls from free-living chimpanzees. Jacky stomped and hooted in response. Nama and I stood still and listened. I am relieved every time I hear the chimpanzees calling from the surrounding forest - relieved to know that at least some of them are still there. I don't believe that any hunter in our close proximity would kill a chimpanzee or a gorilla today - we have been that successful in our sensitization campaign, at least - but commercial hunters from other villages still come and threaten the apes in our area.

Since the beginning of November 2002, the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center has received nine new orphaned babies - Stanley, Cecile, Lucy, Manni, Mowgli, Moon, Luke, Future and Jessica - indisputable evidence that the killing of chimpanzees in the forests of Cameroon is rampant. None of

Babies enjoy their milk in the nursery

Dr. Speede plays the role of chimpanzee
tree with three fellow Great Apes

these orphans came from the forest immediately surrounding the Center, but, wherever each of them lived, a hunter with a shotgun invaded. Chimpanzees, like gorillas, are large and relatively slow-moving, and therefore particularly vulnerable to commercial poachers with shotguns. Individuals and family groups, including the orphans who are pried from the corpses of their mothers to be sold as pets, suffer terribly as a result of this carnage. In addition, because chimpanzees and gorillas reproduce so slowly - only one baby every 4-5 years - their populations are being decimated by hunters. They will soon be extinct in Cameroon, and elsewhere, if patterns don't change.

Providing the best life possible for orphans of all ages at the Rescue Center is work that must continue, but our most far-reaching and difficult role in this country is to stop the wholesale slaughter of chimpanzees and gorillas in the forests. Please read inside about our national media campaign to save the great apes of Cameroon. I am very hopeful that the campaign will have a positive impact on attitudes and behavior pertaining to the hunting and eating of chimpanzees and gorillas throughout the country.

While we try through every available avenue to save chimpanzees and gorillas living in Cameroon's forests, it is our 33 resident chimpanzees - the uniquely special individuals who we know so well - who keep us inspired. And they are happy and healthy today because of you, our supporters in the United States and in Europe. I hope that in reading about them, you are as proud to be a part of IDA-Africa as I am.

From the Cameroon bush, to all of you who have supported our work here, I send my most heartfelt appreciation. Thank you all so much.




In Memory of Pepe
1975 ~ 2002

Pepe  (photo by Leslie Kadane)

The Saddest Good-bye

by Sheri Speede, DVM

Pepe was twenty-seven years old, magnificently handsome, and sometimes kind.

He was kind that day, late in the year 2000, when Dorothy and Nama were released into the forested enclosure with him for the first time. Dorothy, who had been on a short chain at an amusement park for over 25 years, was sweating and panting as she struggled to walk around the 600-meter periphery of the electric enclosure with the others. Pepe, who had been several meters ahead, saw that the elder Dorothy was hesitating as though she could not continue. He turned and hurried back to put his big, encouraging arm around her waist and pull her along. With Pepe's help, Dorothy made it all the way around the enclosure. Of my many vivid memories of Pepe, that one comes to me as a true expression of his sweet, soft heart.

Pepe carrying Gabby on his back 
photo by Mirjam Schot

After being captured as an infant when his mother was killed by hunters, Pepe spent a few years as a pet of a French family until he became " unmanagable," as maturing captive chimpanzees always do. Afterward, he spent many years in a small cage at a resort hotel, which is where I first met him in 1997. He was the first chimpanzee I ever loved, and he was one of the first three residents of the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center. He, more than any other single individual, inspired the foundation of the Center.

He found happiness briefly during his three years at the Center, with his enlarging chimpanzee family. Pepe loved to laugh and play - with Becky in his early days at the Center, then with Nama, and most recently, with all of the babies that were integrated into his group, especially Gabby. He carried babies on his back. Sometimes he carried one baby hanging from his abdomen and one on his back.

Pepe broke his neck when he fell from a tall tree while challenging Jacky, current alpha male of the group, during the final days of October. After giving him every chance to recover, I ended his life and his suffering when secondary complications rendered his situation hopeless. Pepe died at 4:30 p.m. on November 23, 2002.

He lives on, in my heart.

Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center Staff at Pepe's funeral

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