Monkey World’s smallest chimpanzee group has grown, after the team rescued a “pet” chimpanzee from Somerset West, South Africa. But it wasn’t without drama, as the chimpanzee was literally held for ransom over a financial dispute of the O’Neill Estate.
Kalu, who is approximately 37, was kept as a pet by the late Pat Cavendish O’Neill. Kalu lived at O’Neill’s Broadlands Stud Farm in Somerset West for over 30 years, following her capture from the wild in DRC, formerly Zaire, all those years ago. She was the subject of the book “A Chimpanzee in the Wine Cellar” which documented how O’Neill came to own Kalu, and how she coped having a wild animal as a “pet”.
Despite giving her human companionship and an outdoor enclosure she became too big and dangerous to roam free. Kalu never had a family of her own kind, or lived with chimpanzees, since being taken from the wild. Since O’Neill’s passing, Kalu’s care was overseen by the local Monkey Town Primate Centre, who contacted Monkey World to see if Kalu could find a family of her own kind at the Dorset rescue centre.
Discussions with O’Neill’s Estate and a Trust set up in her name enabled the move of the chimpanzee out of Africa to her new home in Dorset. However, Kalu’s rescue was jeopardised when the Monkey World team were prevented from entering the Broadlands Farm on the day they were due to move her! Negotiations between the landowner and the O’Neill Trust & Estate got the team to Kalu but not before they missed their flight out of Cape Town. Monkey World Director, Dr Alison Cronin, Animal Director Jeremy Keeling, and specialist wildlife veterinarian Dr John Lewis made the epic trip back to the UK, with the chimpanzee on board the same flight, 24 hours later.
Primates are long-lived animals, and Kalu could live another 20 years, so it was vital she was given a chance at a family and living with her own kind for the first time in her life. On arrival in the UK, Alison and the team quickly settled Kalu into life at the park, living alongside her new family, a community of five other chimpanzees including three others which have also been smuggled from the wild and used in circuses and as photographer’s props in Cyprus, Mexico, and Thailand.
Kalu has already started her rehabilitation with a visit to the vet for critical treatment and now meeting her new family. The Monkey World team discovered that years of living with people and eating treats and processed food had left Kalu with many rotten teeth and life-threatening diabetes.
Once at the rescue centre, she had six rotten teeth removed and with an appropriate diet her sugar levels, and diabetic status, has already reduced by half. The team are hopeful that Kalu will make a full recovery.
Park Director, Dr Alison Cronin said “Despite not having contact with her own kind since she was stolen from the wild as a baby, Kalu is reacting calmly and happily to the attentions of the new group. It shows how much chimpanzees want and need to be with others of their own kind regardless of how long they have lived alone. This is the story of so many of our rescued chimps at the park”
If you’d like to help support Kalu’s care, and others like her, please donate to the Ape Rescue Trust, Monkey World’s 100% trust used solely for rescuing and rehabilitating primates in need around the globe. You can donate to the Go Fund Me Page here: gf.me/u/xpqmms