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There is something particularly soulful about the eyes of a chimpanzee. They look at us with an intelligence and an understanding that has an almost human complexity. Unlike tailed monkeys, Great Apes occupy the same class of hominid species as humans. In fact, we share 99 percent of our DNA with Chimpanzee’s and they are our closest animal relatives.

Like early humans, chimps are native to central and west Africa. But because of deforestation and a rise in the demand for pet chimps and bush meat their populations are have been declining dramatically. In fact, the UN estimates that over 22,000 chimpanzees were killed between the years of 2005 and 2011. This is a shocking number of animals and as a result, chimps are now officially endangered.

The largest number of wild chimpanzees are currently living in The Democratic Republic of Congo. Attempts have been made by the Congolese government to protect them, but due to extreme poverty in the area and the high prices paid for pet chimpanzee babies, their populations are still under direct threat. For every baby chimpanzee brought into captivity, an estimated ten animals are killed trying to defend it. Those animals are sold as meat and many more are captured in the process. This should be a deterrent for anyone considering a baby chimp as a pet!

The JACK Sanctuary was set up as a rehabilitation facility for orphan chimps and other animals rescued from these horrendous trades. Here, they are allowed to form their own complex social groups, like they would in the wild.  They are also given the love and care that is needed for them to recover from past abuse. Through studying animals, and especially Great Apes, them we learn more about our own humanity.