Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Introducing Rambo

Rambo is a juvenile male chimp, thought to be about five years old, who was recently given to Abidjan zoo by a private individual. We don’t know much about Rambo’s life before coming to the zoo. His owner kept him chained up in the yard, with a heavy padlock around his neck which made the hair on his shoulders fall out. We can assume that he went through similar experiences to Fanta: witness to his mother’s death, stolen from his forest home as a baby, and sold into captivity.

Rambo’s owner didn’t want to keep him any more because he bit a child. Sadly this is an all too common story. Baby chimpanzees are cute, and friendly and playful, but as they grow up they become formidably strong and can become aggressive when they get annoyed by the way they are treated. By the time their owners don’t want them any more, they have forgotten much that they learned in the forest by their mothers’ sides, they cannot be easily reintroduced into the wild, and they are entirely dependent upon human beings.

Rambo turns out to have a very mild temperament. He is very quiet, and calm, though he enjoys playing, and he really enjoys having his back groomed. While one of the keepers spent nearly fifteen minutes cutting off the chain around his neck because the key to the padlock was lost, he appeared to understand exactly what was going on, and remained calm and docile throughout the whole operation. Once the chain was off, he galloped around the cage which was to be his new home, seeming to revel in the freedom.

We don’t know how long Rambo was kept in captivity, we don’t know how young he was when he was captured in the forest. His personality is in marked contrast to Fanta’s; where Fanta screams for things she wants like a spoiled child, Rambo moves mournful brown eyes between you and your bag of peanuts, playing the pity card like a professional. When they were introduced to each other, they hit it off immediately, which was a beautiful confirmation of how important sociality is for chimpanzees. This social interaction and affection between chimps is something that can never be replaced by contact with human beings.