Introductions: The Chimps of Lwiro, Kongo & Crew

Kongo arrives at CRPL after being chained to a post by child soldiers Congo now, right, with pal Kamituga in the new chimp forest

Top Photo: Kongo arrives at CRPL after being chained to a post by child soldiers

Bottom Photo: Kongo hangin’ with his buddy in the sanctuary

Introductions: Meeting Kongo & His Crew

My first experience with the chimps was intimidating, to say the least. Despite the 6-meter electrical fence between us, when dozens of full-grown chimpanzees start dropping out of trees, jumping over bushes and hurling themselves toward you…I somehow suppressed the urge to scream and took a BIG step back.

They all stopped as close to the fence as they could get, looking me up and down for long enough to feel a bit awkward. And then the silence broke and the spectacle began: utter chaos ensued, all of them trying to solidify their position in the spotlight- beating their chests, stomping their feet, tackling each other…sheer mayhem.

But even with all this going on, I couldn’t help but notice his approach. Kongo slowly came over to sit directly in front of me with an undeniable sense of authority. The other chimps honored his arrival with screams of delight, each competing for the chance to be close to him and granted grooming privileges.

But Kongo brushed them all aside, his gaze fixated on the new visitor. He looked at me intensely, straight in the eyes, but more as a question rather than a threat. His presence was commanding to be sure, but comforting at the same time; his gentle demeanor and air of wisdom juxtaposed with his size and rank.

I was smitten. But did he like me? Did I exude whatever it was that one should in order to win the affections of an ape?

I began to walk slowly along the length of the fence. He immediately stood up, trailing behind me by a few steps until I stopped. He would catch up, taking his time, then turn to face me and sit down. I would walk, he would follow, I would stop, he would sit. This continued along the entire 5 acres of the fence. I took it as a sign…I think he likes me.

Kongo arrived at the sanctuary on October 16th, 2007 from the Beni region. He was rescued from a rehabilitation center for former child soldiers and was most likely captured as a baby.

They found him chained to a post in the hot sun with no food or water. Carmen said when she removed the chain, he hugged her and wouldn’t let go. He seemed humanized and didn’t exhibit the normal behaviors of a chimp, so she suspects he spent most of his life in captivity.

Kongo is now the leader of the group, adored by the chimps and the staff. His chains are hopefully a distant memory as roams the forest area, lounging in the shaded grass and basking in the adoration of his adopted family.

You can donate directly to the sanctuary here to support all the work that goes into protecting Kongo and the rest of these amazing souls.


9 thoughts on “Introductions: The Chimps of Lwiro, Kongo & Crew

  1. Brooke – amazing – i love your first 2 posts – keep it up. You must read ‘The Woman and The Ape’ by Peter Hoeg which i read years ago – i thought of it immediately when you wrote about Kongo 🙂 it is quite erotic…
    I really really want to come and visit with the children. Can you have visitors? can you have young visitors ( 10 and 15 now ) how amazing it would be to help you guys feed the apes – and we speak French!
    Of course the story of baby Kongo brought tears to my eyes too – man – too tough – you are doing an amaxing thing out there and i love you for it! keep it up, Hugs Heidi


  2. Brilliant writing Brooke. I loved your experience standing at the fence. I could feel the apprehension. I am glad to see Kongo. I love him.


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