Mapima starved and weak
Photo: Eyal Reinich
Great improvement after rescue
Photo: Samantha Newport
Receiving proper care
Photo: Samantha Newport
A real sweetheart
Photo: Samantha Newport

Israeli saves chimp from Congolese troops

Aid worker staying in war-torn African country rescues starved, tortured chimpanzee held by government soldiers, transfers chimp to local nature institute for treatment

Through the battles that have been raging in southeast Congo and the hundreds of thousands of people uprooted from their homes, Israeli aid worker Eyal Reinich managed to rescue a young chimpanzee that was being illegally held by soldiers in the city of Goma.


Reinich has spent the past six months in the North-Kivu district as the director of Belgian organization Handicap International's office. "On my way to aid at the refugee camps, I noticed government soldiers patroling the area with a chimpanzee on them," Reinich said in a telephone interview from Congo.

Reinich and Mapima at his home in Congo


"Mapima (the chimpanzee) looked very bad, she would just pick up hear head to smile or make contact, but the soldiers just abused her, and beat her up. It was hard to resist her human face. She looked completely starved."


Reinich approached the soldiers and asked to take Mapima from them, but was told that the chimpanzee was a lucky charm for them. "They said that thanks to her they beat the rebels," he said, "I gently told them that I did not want a confrontation with them and if they would just give me the chimpanzee, maybe I could find a better place for her and that would be a lucky charm for them."



Mapima with ICCN caregiver


After some negotiation, Reinich and the soldiers set up a meeting, and Mapima was eventually purchased for US$ 130 and brought to Reinich's home.


"Mapima suffered from a gunshot injury in the palm of her hand. She was weak, starved, her hair was falling out as a result of malnutrition and stress," said Reinich, who immediately contacted the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) to come pick her up.

In safe hands (Photo: Samantha Newport)



Brighter future awaits Mapima at ape shelter (Photo: Samantha Newport)


For four days Reinich and his housemates cared for Mapima thoroughly; cleaning her, feeding her, giving her lice and flea medicine, and of course providing her with the warmth she was missing during her time with the soldiers.


"We even let her sleep in the same bed with us," said Reinich. "She's a real sweetheart."


ICCN representatives arriving to pick Mapima up frowned on the fact that Reinich bought her from the soldiers, fearing it would only encourage the trade of protected wildlife.


"What's the alternative? To let her suffer from a gunshot wound and soldiers' abuse?" Reinich said. "That she be a starved living lucky charm? It's not the ideal solution, but it was the best choice in the given situation."


Mapima was taken by the ICCN to and ape shelter to receive the proper care she needs by a trained caregiver and Reinich's mind was put at ease for the time being. Nonetheless, Reinich said he has noticed other chimpanzees held by soldiers and hopes "to be able to assist in their rescue soon."


פרסום ראשון: 11.21.08, 10:47
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