By Ndey Sowe
A guide at the River Gambia National Park (RGNP) Rene Bonange, has disclosed that the country currently has a total of one hundred and twenty-seven chimpanzees.
“We started with eight chimps but now we have 127 in stock on three islands within the park’’, he said. Bonange disclosed this during Tourism Minister Hamat Bah’s tour to various tourism attraction sites across the country.
According to Rene Bonange, there are four social groups of chimps in The Gambia; that they are the ‘Dash’, ‘Pooh’, ‘Hesus’ and ‘Jumbo’ family on the three Islands already mentioned above.
Bonange said the Islands are commonly referred to as Baboon Islands, and they are located about 300 km up river. He described the Islands as one of the least disturbed areas of the country and they are near the settlement of Kundang in Niamina East, in the Central River Region.
Bonange said the RGNP is also home to the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project (CRP) established in 1979; that the project cares for and re-introduces orphaned and unwanted chimpanzees to the wild; that though Chimpanzees disappeared from the Gambia in the early 1900s, there are now more than 100 of them living freely on these three Islands in four separate social groups.
He said the three islands offer a rare opportunity of viewing the last of the Gambia’s wildlife and lost galley of forests in privacy and comfort.
“We started this work in 1979. Since then, the project rehabilitated many chimps which have been re-introduced to the wild,” he explained; that before, people used to kill mother chimps and put their young in captivity. He said this changed when RGNP was introduced to rehabilitate them.
Bonange said already, a law protects these chimps but added that more can be done to protect them, once they are released in the wild; that for the time being, they want to ensure that they have more of them at the rehabilitation center, protected by the project.
On his part, Hamat NK Bah the Minister of Tourism and Culture said the idea of having guides at the sanctuary is to preserve the Gambia’s flora and fauna.
Minister Bah said the project aims to rejuvenate the country’s fauna and bring back the wild animals that the country lost through poaching.
Meanwhile, the Chimpanzees Rehabilitation Project (CRP) is a cooperative effort between the Foundation for the Protection of West African Chimpanzees, Friends of Animals and the Government of The Gambia. The revenue accrued from the project goes to care for the welfare of the chimps with a percentage given to Government conservation programs and local community development.