For as much effort as has been taken to put a stop to illegal poaching, unfortunately it still happens at alarming rates. Animals are killed for certain body parts or as trophies.
Even chimpanzees are not immune to poaching. Many of them are killed for their meat or captured to be sold to zoos and private collectors (and as many as 10 die for each one that is caught alive).
Anthony Caere, the head anti-poaching pilot at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is working hard to stop this illegal poaching. Some of his duties include inspecting poaching sites and participating in medical evacuations.
One of his recent missions involved rescuing a baby chimpanzee named Mussa whose mother had been killed by poachers.
He picked up the little guy, who was being illegally kept by a man who also kept illegal reptiles, and flew him to Lwiro Primates, a rehabilitation center, where he would be treated and taken care of.
Anthony set up a camera in his cockpit to capture his ride with Mussa, and the video of their time together has gone on to capture thousands of hearts.
Understandably, Mussa was frightened when he was first brought on the plane. He was yet again being taken away from his familiar surroundings by a stranger. He didn’t know where he was being taken this time.
When they first got on the plane, Mussa climbed around inside, exploring his new surroundings. Soon though, he began to get more comfortable and, realizing that Anthony was a friend, climbed into the pilot’s lap.
As they flew around, Mussa explored the levers and switches in front of him. As he sat there, Anthony groomed him, picking out bugs on his back just like his mother would have done.
Eventually, the little primate felt so comfortable that he fell asleep in Anthony’s lap.
The video is precious, but Anthony made sure to let viewers know that this is actually a sad story. Mussa is safe now, but he would have been much better off with his mother in the forest.
Thankfully, Mussa is now receiving the best care available and is adjusting to his new life.
“Mussa is doing very well!” said Lwiro technical director Itsaso Velez del Burgo. “He is spending his quarantine with four other babies also orphaned of poaching.
“At the beginning he was a bit scared of them, probably because he has spent lots of time alone without seeing another chimp. But now he is much more confident playing with them and laughing, even if he is still very attached to the keeper.
“He has some intestinal parasites but we are already treating it. He is a beautiful chimp! His eye expression is special.”
Anthony is happy to see the little guy doing so well, but his true wish is that rescue missions like this one would become obsolete.
“One of the little things I wish for this year is that we all do only that little extra effort for our beautiful, endangered planet, its nature and its animals,” he said. “If our kids still want to see wild animals here in 20 years, well, then, we need to act now. Don’t give up on our beautiful planet.”
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