It has been a month since we started the integration of the babies inside the holding facility or sleeping area. On 4th April 2022, it was Bolly and Themba’s day to be released to the forest as per the integration plan. Bolly and Themba alongside their mothers were released to the forest by 7:45am.
As they entered the forest, Becky immediately started interacting with other chimpanzees and Billi entered deep in the forest and only came back to the feeding area after one hour. Billi was carrying her son (Themba) and she needed to be sure of the safety of her baby in the new environment and therefore began by patrolling.
While Billi with Themba were still on a patrol mission inside the forest beyond where the caregivers could see them, suddenly fighting started but the ones screaming were surely not Billi or Themba. The fighting zone soon expanded and Billi who emerged from the forest got involved. She was kicked by Maisko and on the other hand, Umutama was slapping Becky amidst the group fighting.
The infants were safe and no one directed the aggression to the baby chimps. Shortly, the mothers’ and their babies were observed perfectly interacting with the other chimpanzees. The caregivers continued with releasing the other chimpanzees in phases to the forest. However, the warm welcome from the few individuals so far created confidence in the caregivers that the forest release would be a success.
The phasing plan continued and by 11:00am feeding, a few males namely – Okech, Umugenzi, Kalema, Baluku, Asega and Mawa were still in the holding. This is because these males’ showed signs of allying together and causing avoidable commotion in the group. The monitoring continued progressively well and Bolly and Themba were doing well in the new group as well as the forest environment. This is when the caregivers agreed to let the other males that had been held behind join the forest team.
Okech was released after the 11:00am feeding but Baluku and Umugenzi were released a day after and then Kalema being a tough male who enjoys biting and fighting marked the end of the integration process on the 5th April 2022.