Vegan MoFo: Lemongrass Chimp Tea and Banana Leaf Burritos

This VeganMofo entry is a dedication to the memory of Gwendolyn.
In the spring of 2002 I had volunteered at the IDA-Africa chimpanzee sanctuary in Cameroon that rescued orphan chimps who were  by-products of the illegal bushmeat trade.  Gwen along with two other baby chimp girls, Emma and Niete, arrived at the sanctuary at the same time.  They all were less than a year old and I had the honor of spending time with them in the forest, watching them learn to climb and build bonds with one another.

For a brief period of time, I was a part-time chimp mom, bottle-feeding the girls and prepping meals for them.  The girls were super attached to their human caregiver, but their attachment was a strong reminder of the mother they lost.  Gwen was particularly clingy those first few weeks.  I would sing”You got me” by the Roots to her in the forest.

She was also really curious about the world. I wore a shirt one day with a face of a chimp on the back, and i felt her scratching the face and nibbling on the shirt.

Even at this young age, Gwen, Emma and Niete had particular food preferences.  Dinner was usually rice and beans.  (for the adult chimps it was served in banana leafs).  Gwen just picked out the beans, Emma the rice, and Niete couldn’t be bothered with either.  Bananas and papayas were staple fruit, but on days where mangos and guavas were available, they opted for those instead.

We were in the  mild rainy season and  the chimps were susceptible to colds.  We would boil lemongrass  and garlic in water and make “chimp tea” for them.

I got a very sad an unexpected email at the end of the summer, saying that Gwen was found dead at the sanctuary.  More info is here. The other chimps were in shock.

i am too. Gwennie, you got me.


~ by sangamithra on October 5, 2009.

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