Aug 21, 2019 Against all Odds, Coco’s Story
When Dr. Andrew Rowan, a great friend of the Chimpanzee Conservation Center (CCC) in Guinea, defender of animals, and Wellbeing International President, asked me to write about Coco for “Tales of Well Being” I was very flattered. It’s always pleasant to remember stories with happy endings and to spread the word about the plight of chimpanzees in West Africa. Although the CCC has rescued many chimpanzees over the years (there are currently 63 chimpanzees living at the CCC) and has successfully released 12 chimps back into the wild, the fate of wild chimpanzees is grim, especially for the West African subspecies. In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed this subspecies (Pan troglodytes verus) as “Critically Endangered” (up listing it from “Endangered”). Coco, an ambassador for his subspecies, has been through a series of life-changing experiences which are not particularly atypical for a West African chimpanzee.
At that time, I was living in Conakry, and caring for orphaned chimps at the request of the Guinean Government. I was summoned to help Coco and remove the bullets. He was scared and in pain and, although he did not know me, he decided to trust me (and vice versa). Neither of us had a better solution at the time! His legs remained completely paralyzed for over a year and it took months of treatment and re-education for him to recover some use of them. Despite his suffering, Coco was very patient. Given how dangerous adolescent chimps are known to be, Coco’s kindness is even more amazing. Unfortunately, he will remain disabled for life. His left leg is atrophied, and his right knee is stuck at a 90 ° angle (the kneecap was destroyed by a bullet).