Another European Rescue.  Bimbo and Konda join the Sanctuary

A few months ago we heard about two chimps in Germany, a couple in their thirties who may be facing a very uncertain future. They had lived in Tierpark Lubeck for twenty years in the care of Gunter Lehmensiek and his wife an elderly couple who ran a private Zoo on land leased from the Town Community.

Bimbo and Konda had both suffered life in a circus before going to Gunter, and Bimbo did not walk anywhere but slid around on his backside. During their time with Gunter both chimps received good care albeit as captive animals, and Bimbo although very small in stature is now far from immobile! To those who might think the chimps could have been ‘returned to the wild’ Bimbo would not have lasted five minutes with his limited movement, stature and circus background.

However trouble loomed for the family when Lubeck Community decided that they wanted their land back. All of the animals would be rendered homeless including Bimbo and Konda. Where could they go? Of course, Zoos were not interested in a couple of older chimps who might have problems readjusting.

They had a year to remove the chimps or the future would be grim for Bimbo and Konda, as the usual solution when no home can be found is to euthanize chimps.

The Ministry Veterinary Office in Lubeck contacted us and arranged for Graham to fly to Germany to meet the chimps.

It was obvious from the moment he met them that Bimbo and Konda were lovely chimps and would be happy here at the Sanctuary. An added bonus was Bimbo’s lively nature and enjoyment of playing football! Someone else already here, also enjoys football and playing to the crowd – Tubman! Tubman had been on his own since Joey his companion died earlier this year of chronic heart disease. Whilst Tubman is very at home with people and he and Joey were not that close, could Bimbo and Konda give him the kind of companionship he would like? It was worth a chance for all three chimps’ future. Graham flew home and plans began to move Bimbo and Konda as soon as possible before winter set in.

The Sanctuary Ambulance was prepared and increased power and fuel performance in the form of a Digital Diesel Tuning System generously donated by Diesel Tuning UK Ltd would make for a quicker journey. After all, the trip to Lubeck and back is 805 miles each way and with the two precious older passengers on board time would be of the essence. Eurotunnel facilitated the journey by allowing Graham to transport the chimps via their channel tunnel crossing.The trip was planned for early November. Bimbo and Konda would need to be kept warm on the journey. Graham contacted Seymour Manufacturing International who had helped us in the past. Immediately they offered to make two customised Tempro thermal covers for the two transport crates and rush them to us. The Ambulance was now well equipped for comfort and safety, with air conditioning donated by the Dometic Group and CCTV cameras donated by Ring Automotive to observe the chimps on the journey.

It is always a risk to move chimpanzees as they have to be tranquilised in order to be put into the transport crates and to be given a health check. Bimbo and Konda both in their late thirties would need extra care. At Graham’s request Lubeck Community paid for Nick Masters of International Zoo Vets to oversee the procedure and travel back to the UK with the chimps. Our local All Wales Ambulance Services kindly loaned us an oxygen cylinder as an extra precaution.

Finally Graham set off with Mike Williams, photographer who had volunteered to assist and document the whole rescue mission.

 Understandably Gunter and his wife were upset at losing the two members of their family but when Konda recognised Graham straight away and called out to him, they were reassured that Bimbo and Konda would be happy with us.

All went well and the Sanctuary Ambulance arrived back here in the early hours of Saturday November 6th with its two passengers very much awake and interested in their new surroundings.

BIG QUESTION – what would Tubman think of them? And they of him? None of them had experience of being introduced to new chimps. Bimbo and Konda were installed next door to Tubman so we could spend time observing all their reactions to one another and they could all acclimatise to the new situation.

Chimpanzees can kill one another if the integration process is careless and does not take into account their backgrounds and the fact that they are captive animals.

For the first week Tubman was not overly interested in his new neighbours but he soon saw that in Bimbo particularly he has someone with whom he can relate and the two of them have spent many hours together playing with the footballs and other ‘toys’ and throwing bark at the visitors. Once Konda realised that Tubman posed no threat to her partner she is happy to climb up and watch the two of them performing. Everyone here is delighted that the chimps have so quickly formed a friendship which gives hope for a happier future for all of them.

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