World’s Loneliest Chimp Hugs Human Visitors after Years of Isolation on Tiny African Island

After three years of isolation on a remote island, Ponso the chimp finally received a visitor this year – Estelle Raballand, director of the Chimpanzee Conservation Center. The lonely chimp’s happiness was obvious from his ear-to ear-grin and the way he almost immediately hugged Estelle when she reached out to him.

Ponso’s tragic story began thirty years ago, when he was abandoned off Africa’s Ivory Coast along with 65 other chimpanzees. These chimps, most of which were captured in the wild, were used by the New York Blood Center (NYBC) for hepatitis research. During the testing phase they were reportedly biopsied, anesthetized, and chained by their necks to jungle gyms. After the tests were complete, the lab left the chimps on various remote islands with no natural source of food, occasionally dropping off supplies.


Photo: Estelle Raballand/Facebook

The 20 chimps in Ponso’s group were all between the ages of seven and 11 when they were abandoned; Ponso himself was 10. 11 of them died within nine months of relocation, and the nine surviving chimps were sent to a different island. The conditions on the new island were no better though, and eventually only Ponso, his mate and their two babies were left. Germain, a kind man from a nearby village started bringing them bananas and bread from time to time, and to this day, that he has remained their only source of food.


Photo: Estelle Raballand/Facebook

Sadly, Ponso’s entire family died by the end of 2013, leaving the grief-stricken chimp to a life of isolation on the uninhabited island. Given the traumatic experiences he has faced on account of humans, 40-year-old Ponso’s ability to immediately trust and embrace humans is nothing short of remarkable. When Estelle Raballand, director of the Chimpanzee Conservation Center, visited him recently, he was so happy that he actually laughed and wrapped her in a tight hug.


Photo: SOS Ponso

Unfortunately, his joy was short-lived as he had no choice but to return to his life of solitude after his human visitors left. The Humane Society of the United States is currently trying to raise money for Ponso and other chimps abandoned on remote African islands and a group called SOS Ponso has started a crowdfuning campaign that has already surpassed its €20,000 goal. They plan to use this money to provide food and urgent veterinary care for the world’s loneliest chimp.


Photo: SOS Ponso

Until recently, the New York Blood Center was still caring for the chimpanzees it had performed testing on, but that stopped in May last year, when they announced that they would be withdrawing support for all the chimps that they had abandoned in Africa. In an official statement they said that they had incurred “millions of dollars of costs” to care for the chimps, and had run into a conflict regarding the Liberian government’s own responsibility towards the animals. They also added that they “never had any obligation to care for the chimps, contractual or otherwise.”


Unfortunately, due to his history of lab testing, Ponso will probably never be able to leave the remote island or enjoy the company of other chimps.

via The Dodo

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