Posted in 23/10/2008



By Fernando Turmo (GAP/ PGS)


Today we found ourselves in a complex moment. Decades ago a lot of primates victims of international illegal trade based on African and Asian countries arrived in Europe. A business that enriched a lot of people and allowed that millions of habitants of the old continent killed their curiosity of what it was a chimpanzee, a gorilla, a bonobo or an orangutan.


Behind a chimpanzee that made people laugh in a zoo or in a circus it was always found a tragic story. These beings not only had suffered with the sudden separation from their mothers when they were still in breast feeding but also were transported in very low conditions from very far away of the forest that witnessed their birth. In a few time the mystery and beauty of the forest converted on a reduced space with a can to drink from, another to eat and a glass, which enables that millions of strange eyes, replacing their mothers\’, observe every single movement they made, how they pee, their faeces, how they copulate, if they have the lucky of having a partner. Definitely, an intimacy forcibly exchanged for a certain quantity of fruit and water per day.


Millions of families of these incredible beings who are almost humans were destroyed to satisfy the humane soberby. As result, nowadays, due to the international law and to the development of CITES (Convention on Threatened to Extinction Species, signed by Brazil), this macabre industry that trades great primates seems to be extinguished, at least in the most developed countries. When a case in registered in these countries, it is punished using the current law.


Great primates can not enter Europe with the impunity they entered in the old times, that is for sure. But the question is: can they leaveω


This year\’s approval of the great primates\’ rights proposal by the Spanish Parliament, defended by PGS – GAP, has something in common with the answer for this question.


Nowadays nobody agrees with the exhibition of disabled people in a party, with the subtitle "come and see the crippled clown", to lead an uneducated audience to laugh. Social ethics evolution converted this kind of act in a immorality and it is not practiced in Europe for a long time.


When the Government recognizes the Parliament\’s proposal suggested by PGS – GAP, a lot of great primates rights are going to be approved. This recognition will make us advance in our respect and recognition of our closest evolution partners. And this will make us better person, without any doubt.


But, when this moment arrives, it is going to be necessary to analyze deeply this concept, to understand the real meaning of these rights. One of them is clearly about the right to freedom. The unique justification for a great primate to be jailed in captivity is the incapacity to survive by his own, needing our help. With this affirmation we enter in the delicate area of the subjective evaluation. What makes a chimpanzee do not be able to survive by his ownω Is it true that a captive chimpanzee will never be able to know what it is to be freeω


The great capacity of readaptation of these beings, due to their cognitive abilities and their survival instinct, put these questions in doubt.


Currently different projects for release of great primates in their natural habitat, African and Asian, are being developed. Recently a chimpanzee Sanctuary in Guinea, member of PASA, released 15 of them in a nearby forest achieving good results. Similarly, Help Congo Project has been reintroducing more than 40 chimpanzees to a free life for the last few years. It is also important to mention that Jane Goodall Institute is preparing a great scale reintroduction of 143 chimpanzees that live at Tchimpounga Sanctuary, in Congo. And it is worth to pay attention in the methodology that will be used to the chimpanzees get used to a free life. Immense isles of lots of kilometers long in the middle of great river and with a dense forest will be the first phase of the liberation. After a while in these isles, the chimpanzees are going to be transferred to Congo opened forest, for their final liberation.


Back to these great primates that are prisoners in enclosures that are not so good all over Europe, it is important to value the first phase of the liberation, which includes their release in the isles located in the middle of the river. There the chimpanzees will be in a semi-freedom system, will feel the rain, the sun, the wet soil under their feet, the sound of the leaves, the flavor of the fruits and of the wild plants and will have the opportunity of changing locations if they have conflicts with one another. At the same time, they would not have worries about predator and stealthy hunters. All of these leads to a reflection about the possibility of offer all these chimpanzees who survive in Europe the last opportunity of going back to Africa, no matter there are only a few isles.


The best European enclosures to primates are still limited areas: from the yard to the bedroom, from the bedroom to the yard, from the yard to the bedroom… something that makes us think about the claustrophobics human jails. In captivity the great primates spend their time with a little vegetation here, wood platforms there, a slide on the other side… In the jails, the prisoners try to spend their time playing cards, watching TV, playing basketball, with the difference that the primates are not guilty for anything.


The option of transferring these chimpanzees to the isles in African dense forests can be seen as a very expensive and extremely complex solution. But if we really believe that we won them something, that we are really regretted for having slaughtering their families e stole their freedom, we should hold hands to them and take them back to their home, which is the forest. It is possible that one thinks that this is only a dream, but there was a day that the crippled clown\’s dreams became real and their reality changed forever.


There is no hope without dreams; there is no evolution without hope.


NOTE: Fernando Turno lives in Congo. He is a PGS (GAP) Spain member. He collaborates with African Sanctuaries and has this utopia, maybe raised for the day-by-day reality he witness. But, before send chimpanzees to Africa, it is necessary to fix Africa, and this maybe can be an impossible utopia in the human world.


Pedro A. Ynterian

GAP Project International