Ponso the chimpanzee is the sole survivor of a hepatitis research program on an island off the coast of Liberia, and he needs your help. When he was retired from the program that started in 1974, the New York Blood Center in Vilab II placed Ponso on the Atlantic island with about 20 other chimpanzees. Over half of them reportedly died from starvation within months. In 2013, Ponso’s mate and two children perished, leaving him alone.
The New York Blood Center at first indicated they wanted to provide care for the chimps. The non-profit stopped testing back in 2005 and Vilab II director Alfred M. Prince said that they were searching for an organization to provide long-term care for the chimps, “NYBC recognizes its responsibility to provide an endowment to fund the sanctuary for the lifetime care of the chimpanzees,” he said. Later, Victoria O’Neill, spokesperson for the New York Blood Center said Prince’s opinion didn’t reflect that of the organization.
After leaving the island in 2007, the New York Blood Center staff continued to provide care. But last May, they said they could no longer continue to support the animals and expected the Liberian government, who own them, to step in.
O’Neill said they “never had any obligation to care for the chimps, contractual or otherwise.”
However, the islands aren’t suitable for Ponso to adapt to the wild. Agnes Souchal, manager of the Sanga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in nearby Cameroon, said that natural food on the island is scarce, and there is no fresh water, which means that any chimps living there have to rely entirely on caretakers for sustenance.
A local villager has been keeping Ponso alive with bread and bananas.
Jane Goodall said in an open letter that the New York Blood Center’s decision to stop their care for the chimps was “completely shocking and unacceptable.” Dr. Brian Hare, a primatologist at Duke University said “I have studied great apes for 20 years in all contexts across the globe – labs, zoos, sanctuaries, the wild… Never, ever have I seen anything even remotely as disgusting as this.”
While Ponso’s basic needs are vital, he’s also incredibly lonely. Estelle Raballand, director of the Chimpanzee Conservation Center, visited Ponso and shared photos of him embracing her in a huge hug earlier this month. Raballand said her organization is looking for a sanctuary where he can be placed with other chimps so he won’t be alone.
Via Boing Boing
Images via Estelle Raballand, Chimpanzee Conservation Center on Facebook