Buffy chimp goes home
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1999:
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe––Buffy, 15, a Zaireborn
chimpanzee who was smuggled into Zimbabwe as an
infant, arrived on September 20 at the Chimfunshi Wildlife
Orphanage in northern Zambia, five miles from Zaire.
“About 10 years ago Harare Lion and Cheetah Park
owner Viv Bristow paid $10,000 for her and a male chimp
named James,” Bulawayo Branch SPCA national coordinator
Meryl Harrison told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “They were kept in
a small enclosure where James was chained to the wall.
Bristow’s son tried to ‘train’ James with an electric cattle prod.
James became very aggressive.”
Under pressure from the Bulawayo Branch SPCA,
the Born Free Foundation, and the Zimbabwean park service,
the chimps’ enclosure was enlarged and James was eventually
unchained––”but about five years ago,” Harrison continued,
“James escaped, injured Bristow’s son, and was shot dead.
Since then, Buffy lived in solitary confinement, usually
cradling soft drink and beer cans thrown at her by visitors. The
walls of her enclosure were so high she could only see humans
looking down on her, or the sky.”
Harrison tried repeatedly to talk Bristow into sending
Buffy to Chimfunshi. Founded in 1983 by David and Sheila
Siddle, the sanctuary has about 70 chimps in all, many of them
from similar backgrounds. Two 500-acre natural chimpanzee
habitats are to open next year. Bristow finally agreed in
November 1998 to let Buffy go––if Harrison could get the requisite
permits. Harrison made six trips from Bulawayo to
Harare to accomplish that, at 600 miles round trip each time.
“On our arrival at Chimfunshi,” Harrison said, “all
the resident chimps crowded around the fence to see who had
arrived. Seeing Buffy, they gave loud hoots of welcome.
Buffy responded with the same greeting––the first sound any of
us had ever heard her make. Sheila Siddle found Buffy
approachable and affectionate despite her years of isolation.
We left her eating indigenous fruits and wild honey comb.”
While Chimfunshi is expanding, the H a b i t a t
Ecologique et Liberte pour les Primates (HELP) chimpanzee
sanctuary in the Congo is in trouble, Vilem Bischof of the
Sapa-AFP news service reported on October 3.
“Since 1989,” Bischof wrote, “HELP has prepared
more than 40 illegally captured chimpanzees for release back
into the forest. So far 20 chimps have been completely rehabilitated,
and their daily interaction with fellow chimps has
allowed the build-up of an important corpus of scientific knowledge.
But chronic civil strife in the Congo has led the World
Bank to cut off funding.”
“It is the last international organization of this kind
left in the Congo,” primatologist Caroline Tutin told Bischof.
But there was other good news for chimps––from
New Zealand. Just 15 minutes before the New Zealand
Parliament disbanded on October 12 to prepare for a general
election, it ratified a long-pending new Animal Welfare Act.
Included, said World Animal Network legislative
counsellor Neil Wells, was language which provides that “No
research, testing, or teaching can be conducted on a nonhuman
hominid without the written authority of the Director-General
of Agriculture, who may only give that authority if the
research, testing, or teaching is in the best interests of the nonhuman
hominid, and if the benefits derived are not outweighed
by the likely harm to the nonhuman hominid. In other words,”
Wells said, “nonhuman hominids cannot be used for any
research for the benefit of humans. That is a world first.