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Twycross Zoo experts
help return Gorilla
to the wild
Mission accomplished: Twycross Zoo’s great ape experts join Ape Action Africa primate sanctuary to return gorilla to the wild
Twycross Zoo’s CEO and Head of Life Sciences have returned home from a vital conservation mission in Africa, working alongside primate conservation charity Ape Action Africa (AAA), to successfully carry out Cameroon’s first-ever gorilla return.
From the moment the adult male gorilla arrived at Ape Action Africa’s primate sanctuary in August 2019, Director Rachel Hogan OBE was determined that he would return to his natural habitat, and with this in mind, she named him Freedom. Months of planning and preparation followed before a safe return site was secured by the Ape Action Africa team in collaboration with the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife in Cameroon.
With their vast knowledge and experience of the ape species, Twycross Zoo’s CEO Dr Sharon Redrobe OBE and Head of Life Sciences Dr Matyas Liptovszky were called upon by AAA to provide invaluable logistical support and veterinary expertise for Freedom’s return to the wild.
Sharon embarked on the 3,200-mile-long journey to join Rachel and the AAA team at their HQ in Mefou Forest, Cameroon. Here she took part in the recce to the return site and led the Western lowland gorilla’s pre-return health check.
One month later Matyas travelled to Cameroon to take part in the conservation mission. Matyas explained his journey:
The male gorilla, aptly named, Freedom, had entered a populated area, which wasn’t the safest place for him to live. The charity needed to move him to dense forest, free from poaching, for his own protection. Having identified a suitable forest reserve the move was deemed viable, and I joined Rachel and the AAA team to carry out a pre-return health check on Freedom and anaesthetise him for a stress-free transfer.”
Together with the rest of the team, Rachel and Matyas travelled 12 hours by truck through the night, before finally reaching the river crossing which would take them to the undisturbed tropical rainforest which had been chosen as Freedom’s new home and where he would be returned.
Rachel Hogan OBE, Director of Ape Action Africa, commented:
As soon as the transport cage was opened, Freedom bolted directly towards the trees, and though he was quickly out of sight, the sound of his feet pounding on the forest floor could be clearly heard as he went deeper into the forest, back to his natural habitat. It was a moment of incredible relief, joy and pride, and one that I and the team will never forget.”
Freedom’s return is the first of its kind in Cameroon and is a great example of a conservation organisation working hand in hand with the government of Cameroon to achieve what we all need to be focusing on – keeping endangered animals in the wild where they rightfully belong.”
Ape Action Africa is a wildlife conservation organisation founded in 1996 and, from its base in Mefou, Cameroon, provides sanctuary to wild endangered primates orphaned by the illegal bushmeat and pet trades, as well as educating and supporting local Cameroonian people to protect their natural heritage. To donate to Ape Action Africa’s Freedom Appeal and help to support their gorilla conservation work, visit apeactionafrica.org/donate/freedom-appeal/credit-card.
Dr Sharon Redrobe OBE, CEO of Twycross Zoo said:
Joining forces with our conservation partner Ape Action Africa to return the first ape of its kind to the wild in Cameroon has been a huge success.
We’re now in the 6th extinction crisis with great apes expected to be non-existent in the wild within 20 years, our relationship with projects across the world including Ape Action Africa is vital to protect endangered species and shows how zoos, like us at Twycross Zoo and our experts, provide needed support.”
Twycross Zoo is a leading organisation of great ape conservation and research and is the founder of the Ape Heart Project, an international collaboration to investigate heart disease among the European captive great ape population.
Home to around 500 animals from over 125 species, Twycross Zoo is the only place in the UK where visitors can see all four great apes, the bonobo, orangutan, chimpanzee and gorilla. To find out further information on the four great apes or to book tickets to Twycross Zoo, visit twycrosszoo.org