OL PEJETA, KENYA // Separated from his mother shortly after birth, Manno the chimpanzee was smuggled to Iraq and spent his days smoking cigarettes handed to him by zoo visitors and posing for pictures.
The four-year-old would also be dressed as a child and fed sugary drinks and sweets – giving him near permanent diarrhoea – before being locked in a small cage every night in a private zoo in the Kurdish city of Dohuk.
Then came help from several conservation groups who spent US$10,000 (Dh36,725) on taking Manno to a chimpanzee sanctuary in Kenya – and his days as a spectacle are now over.
“On the trip between Dohuk and Erbil airport, the convoy carrying him was, at the closest, about 20 kilometres from Mosul,” where fierce battles are under way between the Iraqi army and ISIL, said Daniel Stiles of the Project to End Great Ape Slavery.
After several days travelling in a small wooden box, Manno arrived on November 30 at the chimpanzee sanctuary within the Ol Pejeta conservancy at the foot of Mount Kenya, which has been taking in endangered chimpanzees since 1993.
“Before joining the other chimpanzees, he has to remain in quarantine for a while” to ensure he does not have any diseases that could be transmitted to the reserve’s 36 other residents, said Stephen Ngulu, a veterinarian and the chimp sanctuary’s director.
To avoid unsettling the delicate balance within the troop, and the creation of deadly rivalries, Manno will be slowly introduced to the other chimps before joining them in their one square kilometre of fenced territory.
Manno, who is believed to have been born in a zoo in the Syrian capital of Damascus, has not had any contact with his kind since at least the end of 2013 when he was illegally sold to the Dohuk zoo for $15,000.
In the meantime, Manno happily swings on ropes and plays with stuffed animals and balls in his room.
“He plays, he moves around constantly, he is very excited by what we give him,” said Mr Ngulu. “He doesn’t seem to be depressed.”
* Agence France-Presse