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  Monty - chimp expert
Updated 30 January 2003, 19.29

Monty works at a special sanctuary for chimpanzees on Ngamba Island in Uganda.

Chimps are brought to the sanctuary because they need protecting from poachers who can hunt them for their meat or sell them illegally as exotic pets.

The chat is now over, thanks for all your questions - simply scroll down to read what Monty had to say!

Host: Hi - welcome to our live chat with chimp expert Monty who is talking to us from Ngamba Island in Uganda.

Sarah: How many chimps do you have in your sanctuary?
Monty: We have 42 chimps ranging from the ages from one up to 19 years in our sanctuary.

Kirsty: Why do you like chimps so much?
Monty: I like chips Kirsty because chimps are so much like humans, they remind us of ourselves and they are an endangered species, so we have to help them!

Alan: How long do chimps live for?
Monty: In captivity chimps can live up to 60 years of age and in the wild they can live up to 40 years.

Sibyl: What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you, when working with chimps?
Monty: I guess it's when you are with a film crew and the chimps get curious and lift your shirt up or pull your trousers down in front of the film crew!! They always act up.

Daisy: I live in Brunei and get monkeys in my garden, what food should you give to monkeys?
Monty: Hi Daisy, if they are wild monkeys you should not really encourage them as they will keep coming back, and monkeys can become a nuisance! I just wouldn't encourage you to feed wild animals. Don't try to get them used to people, as making a wild animals used to people will make them vulnerable in the wild.

Luke: What is the worst part of your job? Have any of the chimps attacked you?
Monty: There is nothing bad about my job, I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful job! I have been attacked by the chimps as sometimes, like humans, they get annoyed and frustrated, but we have to forgive them because they have gone through so much trauma already - but then we make up!!!
The chimps understand we are there to help them so we don't often come across many problems. The chimps' way of socialising is biting, so sometimes they bite a little too hard, but they don't mean to.

Dana: Do you see any signs of human behaviour in them, like in the way that they do things?
Monty: Absolutely! Chimps and humans share 98.4% DNA!!! This makes them our closest living relative - we are so similar it's scary!
Chimps go through the same emotions that humans do - they laugh, they cry, they get angry, they grieve when they lose another chimpanzee and sometimes they even look like us!

Laura: What's the worst state you've seen a chimp in?
Monty: It was in June last year when we received a chimp that weighed 1kg, and for his age he should have been 10kg. He was very skeletal and it was extremely distressing for all those who had to see him. Sadly he died within 8hrs of being handed over to us - he had been very mistreated.
Most of the chimps, when they first come into our care, are very malnourished as well as traumatised and we take then through a 3 month rehabilitation and give them the food and love and care they need, and before too long they are re-introduced to the other chimps. This is a happy time for us, and an even happier time for them.

Emily: What would be the best way to get involved, will I need any certain qualifications?
Monty: To get involved in any kind of animal conservation organisation, I would strongly suggest that you start now! Start by becoming a volunteer for your local wildlife shelters, get involved in campaigns to help animals. Organisations need all sorts of people to help make a difference, it doesn't necessarily have to animal related as everyone contributes in some way. In the future you could look at volunteering overseas for an organisation. Find out where it is that you would like to get involved.

Carlos: How did you get the job at the sanctuary and what's it like?
Monty: The reality of my job is that I sit in an office all day and I only get to see the chimps once a month, but I'm contributing in a much bigger way by spreading the word of our organisation.
I got involved by coming to Uganda as a volunteer for a conservation organisation and from there I got involved with the different wildlife organisations including the Ugandan SPCA - society for the protection and cruelty of animals. I was working with domestic animals like cats and dogs, then I went on to work with lions, and now I am working with chimps!

Tim: I've heard that some monkeys like eating meat, is that true?
Monty: Dear Tim, first of all, chimps are NOT monkeys! The biggest difference is that a monkey has a tail and a chimp does not, both are primates, but we refer to the chimp as a 'Great Ape'.
And so to answer your question, yes chimps do occasionally eat meat. In the forest they will hunt antelope, bush pig and even other monkeys (red Colobus monkeys are their favourite). Some scientists believe that they do this when fruit is scarce, others believe it is for more social aspects.
Our chimps do not eat meat, they do not hunt, because we give them so much other food

Paul: What should be done to stop the poachers?
Monty: Good question Paul! Poachers aren't directly the problem - in the case of bush meat i.e. the eating of primates and other animals living in the wild, is often ordered by influential people because it is seen as a delicacy. So those people need to be educated about the law, about endangered species such as chimps. In the case of poachers laying illegal traps in the forest, they too need to educated and better law enforcement from wildlife authorities in that country.
Poachers sometimes turn to this kind of thing because they are so poor and need money, so one of the things we are trying to do in Uganda is employ poachers and turn them into conservation wardens because ultimately they are concerned about the animals and the wildlife. We can offer them a better income whilst at the same time they are helping our conservation effort by working with the local community and educating them.

Tony: Would you rather be a human or an ape?
Monty: Tony, I think that humans can learn a lot from chimps! The thing I like most about chimps is that when they fight (or argue) they soon make up and become friends again - that is certainly one thing that humans could learn from.
I am happy for now being a human because I get to help the chimps!!

Katie: Do chimps have relationships with other chimps likes humans do?
Monty: Chimps are absolutely like humans in that some people they like, and some they don't. They do have best friends and they do have enemies.
When I visit the island there are certain chimps that get over-excited to see me, and I get over-excited to see them.

Karen: Who is your favourite chimp on the island?
Monty: My favourite chimp is a naughty boy called Mawa. Mawa is the one in charge of the nursery group, he is also the largest chimp in the nursery group and because he is the boss he does tend to pick on the little ones - he broke one of the chimp's arms only two weeks ago! But what I love most about him is the way he looks at me when I visit him, his eyes are so expressive that I know he does not mean to do the things he does.

Simon: Do the apes like going in the water?
Monty Generally chimps do not like water which is why an island is a good sanctuary as they don't swim off. However, because Uganda gets so hot, a lot of our chimps, especially the adults, like to sit in the water to cool down. One of our chimps called Sunday will go in up to his neck - but they do not swim.

Kieran: How big is the island?
Monty Ngamba Island is 100 acres of secondary rain forest. We humans inhabit 3 acres so the chimps get 97 acres to run around in.

Sam: Can you talk to the chimpanzees?
Monty: We do talk to the chimps Sam! We know a fraction of their language- i.e. greetings, excitement, anger, play time, which helps us to communicate with them and it makes them comfortable that we understand some of their language. However I'm sure that there is a lot that we don't know.
They absolutely understand me - I will say 'give me your foot' and he will pass his foot through, I ask for a kiss and I get one! We believe they understand a lot more than we think they do!

Nita: Do chimps really love bananas?
Monty: Chimps do like bananas, however our chimps' favourite foods are passion fruit, mangoes and Jack Fruit (a fruit which is a cross between a pineapple and a melon). I think that jack fruit is really smelly! it smells like sewerage! They love peanuts too!!

Soloman: What do you think about zoos?
Monty: Zoos can be a very good education tool if portrayed in the correct way and if the animals are kept in the most excellent conditions (well cared for, good enclosures, lots of activities). However don't you think it is much nicer to see animals back in their natural habitat?

Monty's final word: Thank you for watching the programme and for your questions, please support the things that you believe in and help make a difference - with love from me and the chimps in Uganda!

Watch Laura Jones' reportWatch Laura Jones' report

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Uganda Wildlife Education Centre
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