Wednesday, May 03, 2006

follow up: CRA Allays Rampaging Chimp Fears!

Stella Brewer Marsden, the founding chairperson of the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Association (CRA), has reassured the general public that the chimpanzees centre on the Baboon Island in the River Gambia National Park will inflict no harm on anyone.

She however urged visitors to the island to distance themselves from the landscape of the island, as the chimps could jump onto their boats if they get too close to the island. She gave this assurance after a chimpanzee escaped from the Tacuguma Sanctuary in Sierra Leone and claimed a life. According to her, the CRA is responsible for these chimps and would like to reassure the public that this type of accident, a result of the chimps escaping, cannot happen at River Gambia National Park (RGNP). She noted that the CRA's chimpanzee live on large, forested islands surrounded by deep water at all states of the tide. She noted that chimpanzees cannot swim and it will be impossible for them to escape to the mainland and thus be a danger to innocent members of the public.

She asserted that this incident does highlight the need for the CRA to be constantly vigilant to ensure that unauthorised boats do not approach too close to the island on which the chimps live and to remind all tour operators to ensure that their staff members are made aware of the need to take on board experienced CRA staff when passing through the Baboon Islands. She said independent boat operators should also be aware of this necessity. "If all boats passing between the islands of the National Park heed to this requirement and cooperate, then there will be no danger of any chimpanzee accidentally getting into a vessel and causing a chimpanzee related tragedy in The Gambia," she said.

Ms Brewer highlighted that the existence of the chimpanzees and the success of this thirty-five year old chimp project are assets which are assisting, in a practical and sustainable way, with rural development in the CRD (Central River Division), adding that the CRA has recently opened a small visitor facility -Badi Mayo- that allows people to stay in a degree of comfort and safety and view the chimps, hippos, crocodiles (and if very lucky the West African manatee), red colobus, green vervet, baboons plus of course The Gambia's varied birdlife. According to her, all the income from Badi Mayo goes towards ensuring the long-term welfare of the chimps and protecting the habitat in which they live with any balance going to associated community development.


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