It was a breakthrough when young Manno stopped resisting the overtures of the older female chimpanzee who would eventually become his foster mother.
Jane, a 14-year-old black-haired chimp with a warm gaze, gently touched the younger chimp’s foot.
“He went down, touched her hand, and then actually tumbled onto her,” said Daniel Stiles, with the Project to End Great Ape Slavery. “And then they just started chasing each other.”
Stiles, who recently visited Manno at Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in central Kenya, was delighted to find the 5-year-old socializing and riding on the backs of doting females.
“He just seemed really, really happy,” said Stiles. “In fact, he seemed to be quite a popular chimpanzee.”
It’s been a year since Manno was freed from captivity at the Duhok Zoo in Erbil, where he only interacted with humans.
Leading the rescue efforts was a high school teacher from Sherwood Park, Alta. with unwavering conviction.
Spencer Sekyer bonded with Manno during a visit to Erbil in 2013, where he came to believe the infant ape was purchased through the black market.
Although Manno was well cared for at the time, Sekyer worried that as he grew older and more aggressive, he would have to be locked away in his small cage or even euthanized.
Dreaming of giving his friend a better life in his natural habitat, Sekyer drew on the expertise of Stiles, Animals Lebanon, and a local veterinarian.
He sought support from primatologist Jane Goodall, then Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani and many others.
Finally, as the battle to free Mosul from ISIS ramped up last November, the chimp was freed less than an hour north.
Sekyer was reunited with Manno and they traveled to Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
One year later, Manno’s grooved face appears more content. There’s a new glint in his soulful, amber eyes as protruding ears take in the tweets, hums and calls of the vast savannah that is now home.
“This really has been like a Disney-type ending,” Sekyer told CBC News last week. “There’s so much more to do in regards to primate animal trafficking but if nothing else in this world, we saved one soul.”
Didn’t know he was a chimp
There were never any guarantees when Manno took up residency at the 300-acre sanctuary with 34 other…