Six month old Milou arrived at IDA-Africa's Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center on June 1st, 2010, less than a month after a hunter killed his mother to supply the illegal trade in ape meat. The tiny baby chimpanzee didn't have much value for meat so the hunter kept him alive to try to sell as a pet.
A European woman volunteering for a human aid organization discovered the baby chimpanzee with the family of the hunter in their village in the far eastern part of Cameroon. Overwhelmed by compassion and a desire to save the baby, she gave money for him. Buying baby chimpanzees is a serious mistake because it encourages hunters to specifically target mother chimpanzees with nursing infants. IDA-Africa strongly discourages the illegal practice, but the woman didn't understand the consequences. She only wanted to help the baby and she did, indeed, save him.
Soon after taking him to her home, the woman started looking for a sanctuary for the baby she named Milou. She found IDA-Africa through our office in Cameroon's capital city of Yaounde. A staff member of IDA-Africa's Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, located in the Mbargue Forest, met her to pick up Milou. She was educated about the long-term consequences of buying chimpanzees and instructed to contact IDA-Africa immediately if she finds another orphan.
When Milou first arrived he had only eight teeth and was walking with a wobbly gate, his little arms trembling with the effort. Now Milou is healthy, growing and thriving from the loving attention of his caregivers at our Rescue Center. He still drinks baby milk formula regularly, but is also eating bananas and pineapples. Although always supervised by his caregivers, he is now playing in the forest with his fellow babies.
Unfortunately Milou has a history of being fearless and awkward. His adventurous spirit and lack of coordination have caused him to fall from trees at our Rescue Center several times. Until recently he was never hurt, and his caregivers were always there to comfort him. Sadly his last fall punctured his left eye so badly that a visiting veterinarian had to remove it. Although he recovered quickly from the surgery and rejoined his group of babies, his depth perception is not perfect. Out of concern for his safety, our caregivers now take Milou and some of his friends for excursions out in the savannah where the trees are not tall. We will need to build a special enclosure - a safe environment, rich with many interesting artificial "trees" and climbing structures. It will be the best way to ensure that Milou, and some of our other mildly disabled chimpanzees, can live a normal lifespan and enjoy the forest safely.
Eventually Milou will be integrated with older chimpanzees and have a new family to call his own. As he was meant to live, one day he will play in the forest again within one of the Sanaga-Yong Rescue Center's protected tracts of natural habitat.