2008, July 15th
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Hi Friends of JACK

My name is Chantal. I am a volunteer at JACK and I am also baby JAC's "godmother" as JACK started a chimpanzee adoption programme a few months ago and I have adopted "JAC".

Roxane and her family needed a well deserved vacation and I proposed to take care of the chimps during their absence. 

During the summer vacation (July and August) almost all expats go back to their home country and I was all by myself to assume that huge responsibility.

But OK, there I was…..with all the recommendations given by Roxane (she left me with quite detailed instructions on whom to contact, what to buy, where to go, what to do, etc…)  

So let me tell you how a week looks like for Roxane (or at least, like I experienced it). 

First, you get up at 6.00 am, prepare the milk for the chimps, make sure the yoghurt, fruit and vegetables are ready.

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The last check before going to the refuge

The day mobile must be loaded, the notebooks where the nannies make their daily reports must be read and, before leaving, you have to check if you need to take any medicine with you and see that the blankets for Mwisho and Coco are ready (they are in quarantine and it’s winter time so they need blankets for the day).

My car is loaded and ready to leave

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When you have everything, it is already 7.15 am and time to go to the refuge. At the refuge, the first thing to do is to check if electricity is on in the open enclosure and to see if all the nannies are present (most of the time there is one late…).

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Checking the electrical fences

Then, you have to hurry to feed the chimps who you know are impatient and don’t stand when we are late.

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JAC too impatient an crying for his milk

Because it is winter, you have to wait till the temperature is high enough (around 25°C) to let them in the open enclosure. While doing so,you check if there is no one that looks sick or hurt.

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Once this is done, you collect the dirty blankets, the dirty bottles, the night mobile and check if anything is needed for the refuge. By then it is already 8.30-8.45 am.You bring the dirty things back for cleaning and start running for the food provisions. A call to the bread provider, another one to the papaya provider, another to the two farms (fruit or vegetables), to the store (for milk and other fruit if you need more than the farm can give) and you spend the day driving from one place to the other one (sometimes as far as 30 kms outside the city).

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Collecting bread from a local bakery

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Selecting fruit and collecting vegetables on farms

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By 3.30 pm you must be back for the 2nd run of milk bottles: you prepare the bottles, make sure the night mobile is loaded, see if you have the food for all, prepare coffee (with sugar!) for the night team, count the blankets and put special eucalyptus oil on them (it prevents the cold).

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Preparing warm milk at Roxane's place

Then, again, you rush to the refuge (as already told, the babies don’t like to wait). At the centre, you must make sure to show only the milk bottles when you get in as Mwisho won’t accept his milk if he sees the food.

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Last milk bottles of the day

Once Mwisho and Coco of quarantine have had their drink, you prepare the fruit and vegetables in the night enclosure and get the babies in for their milk. Once this is done, you let them in the main night enclosure where they get their meal.

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When everything is OK with the chimps, it’s time to take care of our two new little boarders: bush-babies. They usually come out of their “nest” around 5.00 pm and wait for us to feed them. They are just adorable.

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JACK has started a new project with bushbabies, also eaten and poached in DRC

By then, it is already around 5.15 pm and if everything has gone right, the nannies have now departed and the night team has arrived. You check the open enclosure, make sure the pool and the chimps'playground are clean and if there is no rubbish thrown by visitors.

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Cleaning the refuge and the playground

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Then it’s almost night (sun goes down pretty early in Congo in the winter season) and time to go back home to clean the boxes and the milk bottles to start a new day.

But this “ideal“ day occurs only once in a while. What I forgot to mention is that Roxane not only takes care of the refuge but she is also teaching, managing a hotel, updating JACK blog, taking care of her kids and husband ! She is just AMAZING!   
 

For me this has been an interesting experience though being all by myself was sometimes stressing especially as I live in the suburbs of Lubumbashi while Roxane lives in the center and, apart from the refuge, I had to take care of two dogs located in different parts of the city. Driving in Lubumbashi can be extremely irritating, not only because people don’t seem to know anything about driving rules but mainly because as a foreigner you keep being harassed by the local police who want you to pay them a drink: there is not a single day when I wasn’t stopped sometimes up to 3 times.   

Almost everything went well: one of the nannies got hurt and had to be hurried to hospital for sewing the deep cut she got as she was bleeding a lot. Mwisho took my finger instead of the banana I handed him and bit it: lucky for me it was a “gentle bite” and though it was painful and we could definitely see his teeth printed deep into my finger, he didn’t shut his mouth otherwise I would probably have only half a finger left over by now.

Like in most parts of the city, we have no water since 72 hours at the refuge so I had to bring containers from Roxane’s place to fill in the big container we have at the refuge.  

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Water is needed to clean the blankets and the enclosures but also to prepare food and milk

Shasa has now taught little Jac (Jac is my godson and he is the “naughty boy” of the group: he does all kinds of mischievous tricks but I just adore him) to bathe and they do this every morning and afternoon, sometimes taking up to four baths a day. Shasa bathes completely while Jac bathes till the waist. The other chimps don’t seem to like bathing as they never get into the water.

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JAC bathing

Coco and Mwisho have become good friends and play together quite a lot which is real nice to watch. Coco had unfortunately caught a cold because Mwisho usually steals all his blankets and in the morning, we often find Coco with only one blanket while Mwisho has got 5. Today, Coco is doing fine and the flu has gone.

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Coco and Mwisho playing

Roxane and her family are coming back tomorrow at noon and l am leaving for Belgium tomorrow at 3.00 pm: THANKS GOD, the chimps are doing well, they are happy and safe      

Written by Chantal Jacques (volunteer at JACK refuge and Jac’s godmother)