Most of these animals have had their mothers, and probably several other group members, killed for bushmeat. The infants are illegally traded as pets, considered a status symbol in some areas, and when they are confiscated by local police they are handed over to the sanctuary. CCC provides lifetime care for these animals or, wherever possible, releases them into the National Park to supplement the existing population.
The centre can hold over 60 chimpanzees at any one time. More animals arrive regularly, and releases are only possible sporadically and with much preparation. The rehabilitation process takes at least 10 years. The released chimpanzees are monitored regularly and results have been extremely positive with several females dispersing and having babies in wild chimpanzee groups. This monitoring presence in the park is also an important deterrent to illegal activities. In addition, CCC conducts awareness programmes with local communities around the park and across the country using radio and other media.
Tusk funding for CCC has focused on the release programme, providing tracking equipment, salaries and funds to construct a camp for the monitoring team. This is the first free release of previously captive animals. A second release is planned for 2019.
Orphan chimpanzees are a tragic by-product of the enforcement of wildlife laws. By caring for them and using them to raise awareness and drive local conservation action, CCC provides a positive response to this ongoing problem. But as long as the problem remains, their valuable work needs continuous support.