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THE CHIMPANZEES : GHOSTS OF CONGO

On June 12th, the Animal channel will air “Land of the Apes”, a documentary film by Philippe Moreau. This film will be followed by a debate on the theme “Should all the planet’s endangered species be saved?”, moderated by Bernard Montiel.

Participating in the debate:

  • Christine Sourd, Assistant programming director for WWF,
  • Jean-Claude Nouët, Professor on the Medicine Faculty at the Pitié Salpetrière,
  • Raphaël Billé, Director of the program «Biodiversity and Adaptation to climate change» at the IDDRI, (Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations),
  • Thierry Coste, member of the Noé Committee, an organization attempting to resist the rise in animal protection initiatives.

“Land of the Apes” was created in liaison with the organization HELP, whose exceptional engagement on the subject should be highlighted.

H.E.L.P. Congo (Ecological Habitat and Freedom for Primates) acts for the protection of chimpanzees and their reintroduction into natural habitats since 1989.

Aliette Jamart, a Frenchwoman living in the Republic of Congo, decided at that time to come to the aid of chimpanzees and other primates housed at the «hospice zoo» in Pointe-Noire. The chimpanzees there lived in terrible conditions. She took them home with her. “Once you’ve taken a chimpanzee in your arms, it becomes impossible to let it go…” states Aliette Jamart. Bringing them home isn’t enough: the illegal trafficking must be halted and the forest protected. Thus since 2000, HELP Congo has developed other programs: education and information about the environment, the creation of a plantation pilot program, scientific missions about primate’s habitats… Raised to the rank of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, in recognition of her forty-three years of professional and associative activities, it was on April 28th, 1989 that Aliette Jamart vowed to give the chimpanzees their freedom…

In 1991, the Congolese government placed three forest-covered islands in the lagoon of Conkouati at the disposal of HELP, 180 kilometers to the north of Pointe-Noire. Thus was born the Conkouati Sanctuary. In November 1996, five chimpanzees were released in the triangle, a forested zone in Conkouati-Douli National Park. It was the first time a release of chimpanzees into their natural environment had ever taken place!

More than seventy chimpanzees have been taken in by HELP Congo between 1989 and today. Among them the majority are young animals, sometimes less than a year old, seized by the Congolese authorities or abandoned by private individuals.

The older ones come from the Pointe-Noire Zoo (destroyed in 1994), while others were relocated from the Brazzaville Zoo during the war in 1997. They were given refuge on one of the sanctuary’s islands. To this day, the three islands are still inhabited by chimpanzees. They have found food but not in sufficient quantities: additional nutrition is given to them daily.

Today, all over the globe, thousands of animal and plant species disappear, sometimes even before having been described or studied, and with the current pace of deforestation, 90% of the great apes’ habitat in Africa will have disappeared by 2030. Humans are thus responsible for the future of their “distant” cousin… HELP Congo’s mission is to act for the preservation of primates but also of their habitat and everything that ensures its equilibrium. For that, nature must be protected and humans educated.

HELP Congo thus also fights against poaching and supports Congolese authorities in their actions, as well as by dissuading poachers with the permanent presence of teams in the forest. By raising awareness about forest preservation, by fighting against deforestation, and by actively participating in scientific research on primates, HELP Congo has demonstrated that reintroduction is a real tool for preservation, with poaching having greatly diminished since 1996.

In parallel with HELP Congo, 2000 volunteers who have visited the Congo Republic created HELP International, a French association whose goal is to provide logistical, financial and media support to the Congolese HELP organization. Donations, memberships and sponsorships addressed to HELP International are also used to create exhibitions and booths always with the goal of supporting HELP in the Congo.

On June 9th, 2013 in Lyon, those who would like can take part by participating in the Course of Heroes (even by walking): a 6-kilometer challenge with the goal of collecting donations destined for the purchase of medical equipment for the chimpanzee operating room, the construction of a new building to house baby orphans and to follow the chimpanzees in the forest.

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