Raka, the baby chimp from Mbeten I 

The Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center got many visitors. One day, the major from Belabo and his son came to see the chimpanzees. He told us that a man from his village had a baby chimpanzee as a pet. His son could accompany us to the village, about 50 kilometres from Bertoua. However, on the day we were supposed to meet each other he wasn't there and we went by ourselves. The village was found easily and so was the house where the family with the chimp lived. But no one was home, so we had to go to their farm.

Raka, the chimp, was a 1,5 year old boy, dressed in an old baby dress. He was helping the family at the farm, at least that was what Benjamin, the father of the family, told us when we went back to his house. The family had many kids, one of them was a girl with down's syndrome. Raka had taught her to walk. Raka was one of their kids. They treated him like a member of the family. He had a cage though………

He was well fed, but he had a cold. He was the favourite playmate of the children and got a lot of attention from everybody. Benjamin had planned to take him into the towns and villages to let him walk in parades. He wanted to take pictures of people posing with Raka. Raka was supposed to sign these pictures and bring a lot of money into the family.

Benjamin said that he bought Raka from a hunter 9 months before our visit, because he felt sorry for him. We were trying to explain to him that it was illegal to buy, eat, sell, kill or keep a chimpanzee in the house. He knew that.

 

We tried to tell him that chimpanzees are not pets. That they could bring diseases into his house. That at this age, they are easygoing and cute but in 2 years they will start to be more aggressive to his kids and that Raka would end up in a cage or on a chain. Nice way to treat a member of your family……

He had a plan, he said. He wanted to pay a hunter to get him a baby girl. So Raka would have a partner and they could be released into the forest….. Besides, Raka was so nice, he would never become aggressive! He said something that was true though, that Raka was better of living with other chimpanzees. But Benjamin thought that treating him like a human being, was the best a chimp could ever get.

The authorities did not want to help us, so Raka is still living with Benjamin and his family. And he will probably end up living on a chain or in a cage.