27 July 2023
SIMAO: ONE YEAR ON
A year ago, you gave a lonely orphan chimpanzee an enriched new life at a sanctuary in Liberia. Our Rescue & Care Officer Dr Andrea Donalson reports.
Do you remember Simao (also known as Simon), the orphan chimpanzee in Guinea Bissau? Thanks to a report to our Raise the Red Flag platform and your donations to our Saving Simon appeal, 12 months ago he and three other orphans – Fifi, Tze and Tita – were successfully moved to a wonderful new home with our friends at Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection (LCRP). Tragically, all four were victims of the cruel, illegal bushmeat and wild pet trade.
Simao first came to the attention of Born Free in 2018 via Raise the Red Flag, after a supporter alerted us to a baby chimpanzee being kept alone in a small and barren cage – sending us a report and photos. We think Simao, a western chimpanzee, was born in a national park in southern Guinea Bissau and was taken from the wild by poachers to be sold as a pet – his family no doubt killed for meat.
Born Free launched a fundraising appeal and worked with our colleagues at the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) to rehome Simau, together with the three other orphan chimpanzees also in desperate need of help. After several years of delays – not least due to covid, and a pooling of resources between Born Free, PASA, Jane Goodall Institute and DHL, in July 2022 all four chimpanzees safely arrived at their forever home with LCRP, to begin their lengthy rehabilitation.
Shortly afterwards, it was deeply emotional to watch footage of Simao being carefully introduced by his new carers at LCRP to Sampson – another rescued chimp. This was the first chimpanzee Simao had been with since losing his family and, after a few moments of being unsure, they reached out to embrace each other. Wonderful!
Since then, the year has flown by and all four chimpanzees from Guinea Bissau are thriving in their new home. Each individual has found their place and slowly recovered from their traumatic past. It has not been an easy path but, Simao, Fifi, Tze and Tita are gradually becoming integrated with other rescued chimpanzees – an achievement worthy of celebration.
“It has not been an easy path but, Simao, Fifi, Tze and Tita are gradually becoming integrated with other rescued chimpanzees – an achievement worthy of celebration.”
Simao remains good friends with Sampson and they are now together in an active group which includes Tze. Simao’s best friend so far seems to be Surprise and the two spend a lot of time together playing and grooming – as young chimpanzees would in the wild. Simao loves all kinds of good food and enjoys the freedom of being able to climb – not least when the LCRP team take the group for regular visits to the nearby forest to explore.
Meanwhile Tze is sweet and very gentle. He loves to play but, also enjoys quiet time on his own. Ellie and Nnamdi have become his special friends. Tita is a happy little girl and fits in wonderfully with her new group of friends. An older chimpanzee Poppy has adopted Tita as her little sister and they go everywhere together.
After spending more than 20 years in isolation in small cage, Fifi has required the most intensive help to rehabilitate and learn to ‘become a chimpanzee again’. Understandably, she remains wary and is still learning, but is now living as part of a small group of females. There is heartwarming footage of Fifi meeting the older female chimpanzee Priscilla – her first contact with another of her kind for over two decades.
We are so grateful to the dedicated team at LCRP – Liberia’s only chimpanzee sanctuary and conservation centre (www.liberiachimpanzeerescue.org). Thank you for all you do to give Simao, Tita, Tze and Fifi their best possible life and the companionship of other chimpanzees. Our work continues to end the cruel and heartbreaking trade in chimpanzee meat and pets.