Mintak came from southeast Cameroon, where the Bayaka people, or pigmies, live. He is from the very dense tropical forest where there are still gorillas and chimpanzees, but where the hunting pressure is increasing constantly. He was relinquished to Peace Corps volunteer Carey Johnson by a hunter in the village of Ngoila in January 2005, within days of when his mother was killed by the hunter.
Mintak came from an area where four great apes – two chimpanzees and two gorillas – had been found dead of an unknown disease in the previous two months. To minimize risk of exposure to disease, Mintak was cared for in the village were he was found for a three week quarantine period, which is longer than the incubation period for all known acute infections that are deadly to chimpanzees and humans in Central Africa. Soon after Mintak was brought to the Center, the disease that had killed the four great apes was determined to be Anthrax, a bacterial infection that can be fatal for humans as well as chimpanzees. No other cases have been found.
When he arrived, Mintak was sad and still very stressed about being captive. Unfortunately, he could not have survived in the forest without his mother. The Sanaga-Yong staff was determined to give him a new adoptive family as they have with all residents at the Center.
Currently Mintak has a strong bond with his chimpanzee friends, Johnny and Tic. He is still very suspicious of humans in general, but he trusts his caregiver Marie. The name Mintak means “proud” in the local language, and also “joy”.
Mintak, Tic, Johnny and caregiver, Marie
Mintak looking over Tic's shoulder