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A chimp’s cuddly plane trip went viral. The pilot wishes it never had to happen

March 2, 2020


And now to our “NewsHour” Shares, something
that caught our eye. The video of a rescued chimpanzee’s flight
to wildlife sanctuary recently spread like wildfire on the Internet. The “NewsHour”‘s Julia Griffin tracked down
the video’s pilot and asked about his mission to save Africa’s imperiled primates. JULIA GRIFFIN: It’s a simple video that tugs
at the heartstrings: A baby chimp bonds with, sleeps on, and even learns from the man flying
him to a safer home. The pilot is Anthony Caere, Belgian aviator
working for Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. ANTHONY CAERE, Virunga National Park: Since
I was a little boy, I had two big wishes. And it was flying small planes and animals. And when I had the opportunity to work for
Virunga National Park, I grabbed it with two hands. JULIA GRIFFIN: On a normal day, Caere is an
eye in the sky, assisting rangers in anti-poaching patrols, wildlife censuses and other duties. But a few times a year, he ferries orphaned
apes and monkeys 400 miles north to Lwiro Primate Rehabilitation Center. His passenger this time was Mussa, a 3-year-old
chimpanzee recently rescued from poachers. ANTHONY CAERE: It’s actually a very sad story,
because they took that little chimp away from his family. They killed his family. JULIA GRIFFIN: Poachers often sell slaughtered
adult monkeys as bushmeat in local markets, but they prefer to peddle the baby animals
as pets. Once confiscated from their captors, Lwiro
provides primates like Mussa a safe space to recover. The organization cares for more than six dozen
chimps and nearly 100 monkeys, many of which arrive malnourished, stressed and physically
wounded from tight ropes and small cages, which is why, Caere says, most baby chimps
are not restrained during his flights. ANTHONY CAERE: If you have like a really chill
little baby chimp who is happy to be on your lap, and it holds you, then you have the wrong
effect when you put it in a cage. Then it will totally freak out, start to cry. And it can die, actually. So we take the time to gain his trust, to
feed him. And when he feels comfortable and he jumps
on your arms and he holds you, then it’s time to do the flight. JULIA GRIFFIN: And while he is happy his video
went viral, Caere emphasizes this flight should never have happened in the first place. ANTHONY CAERE: I hope the people not only
say, OK, it’s a cute movie, but the message is that that little chimp should be with his
mom, and not on my lap. JULIA GRIFFIN: Mussa is now in quarantine
with other rescued baby chimps. When he is ready, he will be introduced to
a new chimp family. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Julia Griffin. JUDY WOODRUFF: And it restores your faith
in people.

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