Sat, 28 Jan 2023

Kathmandu [Nepal], November 19 (ANI): A pair of chimpanzees have become the new celebrities at a central zoo in Jawalakhel of Lalitpur District.

In 2017, two chimpanzees who were only a few months old each were rescued from being smuggled to other countries. After taking care of them for about 5 years, the pair of chimps were introduced to the public in late April this year and have now have become star attractions at the zoo with visitors flocking to see their newly built house.

Named Champa (Female) and Chimpu (Male), the pair of chimps have captured the attention of visitors through their playful acts.

"This animal is not common to be seen, I am really happy to watch their antics and their various acts of playing," MhendoTamang told ANI after she watched the chimps play for about an hour.

The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) arrested six people (One from Pakistani, two from Nepal and three Indians) in connection to the smuggling of chimpanzees from a house in Bhaktapur which later was revealed as a hub for international wildlife smugglers.

The chimpanzee is considered a vulnerable wildlife and is protected under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Thus, it is illegal to transport, sell or purchase them dead or alive as per international law.

At the time of their arrival at Central Zoo in Nepal Chimpu, the male was approximately 3 months old (weighing 3.5 kg) and the female-Champawas approximately 6 months old (weighing 4 kg). At present the male weighs 21 kg and the female weighs 24 kg.

"As a guardian, we took care of them they were babies, just feeding on the milk. Now they've grown up but still they are babies because chimpanzees are considered adults only at around 13 years. As they are 5 and half years old they still are babies and we feed them milk along with fruits and vegetables," Lina Chalise, the Spokesperson at the central zoo told ANI.

The zoo authorities kept baby chimps in a nursery under intensive care after their handover by the government. A staff was stationed to take care of the baby chimpanzees round the clock to take care and rear them as they required the same kind of treatment as human babies-mostly dependent on their mother.

"The two chimpanzee babies are very playful, very responding to your reaction. They are cheerful with the presence of people, especially with the children, they try to imitate them. When we do certain acts and make faces. We also try to copy so they're very cheerful around babies-they copy their act while running around. When visitors are around them they ask to groom them and also invite them to scratch their back. They are happy to be here," the official added.

A caretaker assigned by zoo authorities has been taking care of the primates round the clock feeding them multiple times a day with milk, seasonal fruits- apples, banana, watermelons, pomegranates, vegetables- broccolis, carrots, bread and cereals.

The baby chimpanzees who are growing in human care inside the enclosure have an area of 4,140 sqft with three rooms and an outdoor garden. Their rooms are equipped with four air conditioners and have wooden flooring keeping in mind temperature requirements.

The holding area is equipped with toughened glass that allows for favourable visitor viewing, and the facility is enriched with extra amenities like swings, poles and activity platforms to enable healthy physical and emotional development.

"Seeing a Chimpanzee here in Nepal itself is quite a rare phenomenon. This animal does not exist in Nepali wildlife. As it is kept here after being rescued by the Government of Nepal, visitors along with myself are happy to see them as it is the first time we are able to see them live," Manish Aryal, a university-going student from Lalitpur told ANI as he watched the playful baby chimps.

Amongst the 900 animals of 113 species, the chimpanzees have now become the centre of attraction apart from the Royal Bengal Tiger, and a horned rhino amongst others. Over one million visitors come to enjoy the displayed animals at the Central Zoo annually now are more like a celebrity.

The Central Zoo over a period of time has been taking care of animals and birds that are smuggled by wildlife traders and rescued by authorities. Along with the pair of Chimpanzees, the CBI had also rescued eight monkeys, seven golden pheasants, two ring-neck pheasants, 39 pigeons and 65 parrots that were smuggled into Kathmandu through Tribhuwan International Airport.

"People used to really say that they are here to see the Tigers, Elephants- now visitors come and say that 'we want to see the newest member of the zoo-the Chimpanzees'. Visitors heard from the news and various sources attributing the primates as look-alikes and really want to confirm it. Whenever they come around and look at the chimpanzees, they really get fascinated and bring their children along. In quite a short time, we've gathered a large mass who want to see the chimpanzees," Chalise, the officer at Central zoo told ANI.

Not confirming their mother, the Government of Nepal has assured that Chimpu and Champa would be returned to the country of origin under the CITES Convention if it received proof.

However, in the lack of insufficient evidence and no claim, the primates are living in Nepal. The Trust also conducted DNA tests on both chimpanzees. The source of chimpanzees said to be from Nigeria, is unknown. But the pair have found a new home to spend their childhood with fun and gusto.

The Nepal Government, as a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), chimpanzees can be repatriated at expense of any government body that gathers sufficient evidence to cover the cost. But it seems not to be happening soon. (ANI)

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