Ponso is a 40-year-old chimp dumped on an abandoned island off the Ivory Coast more than 30 years ago after being used for medical testing by the New York Blood Center.
He and his 19 companions were left and over the years the animals all died until only Ponso remained. He would have died too if it had not been for a local farmer named Germain, who brings him food and water.
In 2013, Germain buried Ponso’s last chimpanzee companion, his own baby. Germain said Ponso kneeled and imitated him digging. Ponso has been alone ever since and relies on Germain and a few wildlife welfare groups to survive.
Despite the suffering and loneliness Ponso has endured, he always welcomes visitors with a warm hug.
He was recently visited by Estelle Raballand, director of the Chimpanzee Conservation Center, and embraced her as if she was an old friend.
Ponso is one of dozens of chimps left on a string of islands after the New York Blood Center (NYBC) finished years of testing on them. The islands have no source of food or water and therefore the NYBC arranged for supplies to be dropped off to them. That is, until last year. Last year, NYBC announced it would be cutting its funding for the chimps, essentially leaving the remaining animals to starve to death.
NYBC has made millions of dollars off of the vaccinations developed from research on the chimps, but they are now refusing care to the animals. Their decision has met with widespread condemnation. At the time, Jane Goodall called the announcement “completely shocking and unacceptable.” Duke University primatologist Brian Hare told the New York Times, “Never, ever have I seen anything even remotely as disgusting as this.”
Since then, the surviving chimps are being cared for as best as possible by a coalition of animal welfare groups and public donations. The chimps’ supporters have also fought to hold NYBC responsible through protests and petitions, but NYBC has been unrelenting in its decision.
As for Ponso, a group called SOS Ponso has been highlighting the chimp’s plight. The friendly chimp’s story is a stark reminder that we all bear a responsibility to care for animals who have sacrificed much for us.
Here is a video of Ponso’s story.
And here is a brief in-depth documentary from 2014, where the Motherboard news crew visited the surviving chimps on the islands and spoke to the locals and the scientists involved in the animals’ testing 25 years ago. Note: this video was made prior to NYBC cutting funding to the chimps.
Share this heartbreaking story with your friends and family and spread the word about Ponso and his companions.