Captain’s Log-May 15, 2016-Chimp Rescue-More Fun Than A Plane Full of Chimpanzees

Chimps all tied down....just before the great escape.

Chimps all tied down….just before the great escape.

It is always interesting to be reminded of things that I should have written down, but didn’t, so when an NBC crew recently reminded me of a very interesting day I had back in 2009 I decided it was worth relating. We were called to pick up a load of cargo in the middle of the forest, five chimpanzees that had been rescued from the pot by some very nice people, and we were to take them to the ICCN (Congo government national parks) sanctuary in Bukavu. It meant a lot of flying with no real place to fuel along the way, so Joey Lincoln and I filled the Caravan as full of fuel as we could and then put a couple more drums in the plane to refuel from when we got to Akethi.

A little dazed but ready for the big safari to the sactuary.

A little dazed but ready for the big safari to the sanctuary.

We landed to find a bit of a battle going on between a local “official” and the people we were picking up. He wanted thousands of dollars from them for the right to move the chimps. All their paperwork was already in order, but it was from the capital and we were not in the capital.   Some might wonder why our mission is flying wild animals, but MAF looks for opportunities to work with the country in ways that promote stability so we will fly teachers’ salaries and medical people and sometimes ballots for elections and even do wildlife conservation flying. I love this part of the work and meet many interesting people who I get to interact with.

Adam and Laura very happy to be up and away from the struggle. You can see the net over all the crates in the background.

Laura and Adam, very happy to be up and away from the struggle. You can see the net over all the crates in the background.

Anyway, we had a very long day and could not waste a lot of time so I told Joey to fill the plane with fuel while I loaded the chimps. We require animals to be in cages in the plane, and these were in cages, but they were hand made out of small boards and local materials from the bush so, even as we were loading, chimps were getting out. It was pretty hectic and the biggest chimp was very strong. It was a mission to get it back in the box even though the chimp was partially sedated. When she was finally back inside, I secured the cargo net over the whole lot and got everything else ready. While I was wrapping up, the “official” was “discussing” the movement permit validity closely with Laura, one of the rescuers. Like at a 2 inch distance from her nose. We decided to just leave our empty fuel drums there to be collected at a later time and, when the arguing seemed fairly finished we loaded the people and the last baby chimp. But just as we started to close the last door the officious man came back to say we were actually not done because he still wanted money. Joey told him we had to go due to time limitations, turned the master on and yelled, “Clear Prop”, hitting the starter for just a second. The men quickly got out of the way and we then truly started up and left. It was great to break ground and be on our way and Laura and Adam were visibly relieved to be out of there.

crowd of people with ICCN rangers greet the new arrivals for the sanctuary at Luero in Bukavu.

Crowd of curious people with ICCN rangers greet the new arrivals for the sanctuary at Luero in Bukavu.

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful. We were greeted by the ICCN Parks people at the destination airport and the chimps were safe. It was good to help these animals and be a part of helping Congo to succeed. The story is supposed to air on the early morning Sunday edition of the NBC Today show for those who would like to have a look. I have not seen it so I hope it is accurate. Check it out.    http://www.today.com/money/mission-love-meet-couple-who-found-love-while-rescuing-chimps-t92611  There are some beautiful shots of Congo in there and of our plane landing over the camera crew. It was an interesting and unusual day at the office.

I say goodbye to our new little friends  and wish them a great life.

I say goodbye to our new little friends and wish them a great life.

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3 Responses to Captain’s Log-May 15, 2016-Chimp Rescue-More Fun Than A Plane Full of Chimpanzees

  1. steve barry says:

    Hey Jon, Ive been following all your great stories,so much fun to read and adventurous.well after watching virunga documentary about the mountain gorillas,ive decided to go there for a visit. so i am curious if you do a taxi service from kigali to the virunga park? it would be great to meet you in person. well i hope your well and keep the writing going, its very a very interesting life you live. thanks Steve

    • Jon says:

      Hey Steve, Thanks for writing in. You will love seeing Virunga and the gorillas It is strikingly beautiful. We do not run a shuttle or anything like that. But, the roads are good down to Goma if you are adventurous about taxis. Contact Virunga to see how things are going for tours up to see the gorillas. It will be a great adventure. Cheers, Jon

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