A baby chimpanzee named Little Tongo was ready for his first flight after a tough start to life.
Little Tongo is an orphan who was rescued from traffickers. Poachers killed his family for bushmeat. Since baby chimps are often sold as pets or to illegal zoos, that most likely would have been his fate too.
Pilot Anthony Caere, who is seen here bonding with Little Tongo, has a message he wants us all to understand:
“Chimps are wild animals, they’re not pets, they belong in the wild.”
Why Virunga National Park?
This national park was established in 1925 and was the first one in Africa. It is located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Founded in an effort to protect mountain gorillas, it is now home to many animals.
How many animals call Virunga National Park home?
It is estimated that there are 218 mammal species, 706 bird species, 109 reptile species, and 22 primate species.
The only place on earth to have 3 types of great apes.
Mountain Gorillas, Eastern Lowland Gorillas, and Eastern Chimpanzees are all lucky enough to call Virunga National Park home.
This team risks their lives on a daily basis, protecting the national park’s wildlife, including the last of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas.
10 family members !
That is the average, horrifying number when a chimp baby is stolen by poachers. Sadly, if this continues, in 3-5 years, these poor animals will be extinct. These poachers and illegal traffickers are a huge threat to not only these poor chimpanzees but many other great apes as well.
Little Tongo was given some much-needed human contact by this pilot and is now in the hands of his new home at the LWIRO Primate Rehabilitation Center. Their mission as stated on their website is to “provide the best possible care to orphaned primates in DRC, while working to ensure their protection in the wild.”
This little fellow is so lucky to have been rescued and placed in the care of this true hero, Anthony Caere, while awaiting his flight to his new home. Caere, along with six other recently trained pilots, is living his dream of helping animals.
Pilot Anthony Caere feels that using cages is too stressful for these poor, rescued babies. They have such human-like characteristics, and since you wouldn’t put a child in a cage, Little Tongo shouldn’t be put in one either. Instead, after Little Tongo has relaxed and bonded with him, he holds him on his lap while flying the plane.
Even though being with his mom would be a much better option for this chimp, he seems happy and calm with his baby bottle, while sitting on the pilot’s lap. It doesn’t take long until the chimp is sound asleep!
“The biggest relief is always the touchdown,” says the pilot as he lands the plane.
This statement seems like an understatement, given the severe injuries Caere suffered when his plane crashed in the Virunga National Park in 2017.
Thanks to the kindness and devotion of this pilot and the team of rescuers, Little Tongo has been given a second chance at life.