Saturday, July 25, 2009

After 6 months...Aimee and Tia

Photo of Mike by Frans Lanting

This week marks approximately the 6-month anniversary of Aimee's return to Tia after she was taken by poachers. I spent some time watching Aimee 2 days ago, before I left Fongoli for a brief trip to Tanzania. I was observing Diouf, an adult male who spent a couple of hours sleeping under the shade of a Saba vine "bush". As usual, Diouf stretched out on the ground rather than in the vines themselves or on a bigger limb as some of the chimps do. He is the largest chimp in the Fongoli community, so it was really endearing to see him playing a little with Aimee. A number of chimps came and went below the vines and, for awhile, Tia was lying next to Diouf, resting as well. Aimee, like most youngsters, could not be bothered to do anything as boring as sleeping, so she proceeded to play with whomever was nearby - including Diouf - or just by herself. Infants play quite a bit with their mothers as well, and it was something very special to see Tia and Aimee playing together when you think about the fact that the two were almost separated permanently, with Aimee probably spending her life in the zoo in Dakar.

But, it seems that both mother and daughter have recovered completely - at least physically - from the trauma of the dogs attacking Tia and Aimee, and Aimee's capture and 5 days in captivity (although the last few days were spent in the care of Johnny, which was surely much less stressful than the conditions he found her in). I can't look at either of them without thinking about what a miracle it was they the two were reunited. I also can't believe that I actually carried Aimee out to where the chimps were the day we were able to return her to Tia - as well as feeding her that morning.

Another nice scene below the Saba vines was Aimee playing with Mike - the adolescent male who retrieved her from where we set her down that day she was returned. Mike also carried Aimee for Tia that day and the next, when the group traveled at the end of the day and Tia could not keep up. At any rate, Tia and Aimee are even more special to us than they were before, and it will be a joy to follow Aimee as she grows up in the family she was born to. It was a great last day with the chimps before my 2-week absence from them!

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