CHIMPS AND MANDRILLS BEGIN THE PROCESS TO READY THEM FOR RELEASE
The first stage in the pre-release process is a period of quarantine and health checks during which the animals will be brought together into two species specific groups. This process is being carried out in Gabon at a primate facility known as CIRMF.
It began with the chimpanzees when four females from Lékédi Park were transferred to the facility in mid May, where they were joined by a fifth female, known as Raponda. She is a new addition to the project and has been living semi-wild at the Raponda arboretum in Libreville for several years. By mid June Raponda was introduced to the others and they have been learning to live with each other ever since.
Meanwhile, at the end of June, the two male chimpanzees, Charly and Nzigou were transferred from Lékédi Park. The two boys had been living alone for some time and initially have been placed in separate but adjacent cages. Once they have become used to each other they will then be introduced to the females to form a group.
Chimpanzees are highly social animals and in the wild live in relatively loose bands known as communities. However they do acknowledge and respect a hierarchy, usually headed by a dominant male. The creation of this group is an important phase in the project and we expect it to take several weeks for them to become organised and stable enough for the soft release onto a specially prepared island at our Gorilla Protection Project in Batéké Plateau National Park.
Unlike the chimpanzees, the mandrills are already living at the primate facility in three large forested enclosures. Following an analysis of group structure and the results of various health tests a number of mandrills will be chosen to form the release group. One adult male will be selected, plus two sub-adult males that could take over from the adult if necessary. The remaining group members will be females and young males. Once selected they will then enter a period of group formation and stabilisation similar to the chimpanzees.
When they are ready the mandrills will be released directly into a forest within Batéké Plateau National Park. The area selected for the release is the Nkoli forest, a tributary of the Mpassa, which has some magnificent trees. The underlying layer of vegetation growing between the forest canopy and the forest floor is fairly open and is made up of an assortment of seedlings and saplings from the canopy trees together with specialist shrubs and herbs suited to the landscape. This is an ideal environment for the mandrills. The forest is also crisscrossed by elephant trails, which will help provide access to the post-release monitoring team.
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