AAP rescues three chimps from French circus

Under pressure from the French authorities, three circus chimpanzees were handed over to AAP yesterday. The youngest one was kept as a pet his whole life, both others retired in 2006 after years of doing circus shows and film performances. The circus family still kept them in the circus, often separated from each other in a circus wagon. For fear of criticism from the circus world, the transfer had to take place anonymously and at a secret location in northeastern France.

Due to corona related travel restrictions and attempts by the circus to solve this in a different way, it almost took a year before the AAP team could take action. The rescue operation was extra exciting because AAP was not welcome on the circus grounds and was led to a secret location. Our vet did not know under what circumstances he had to anesthetize and examine the animals before they could be taken to Almere. The primates arrived there last night, to be introduced with conspecifics after their quarantine so that they can finally live as chimpanzees.

Team leader Pieter Levelink: “We were escorted to a farmer’s shed where the circus wagon with the chimpanzees was. We always film what we find, both for the donors who make our rescues possible and for the veterinary team of AAP. But despite agreements made, we were opposed and the atmosphere became quite threatening. The mistrust that we want to make them look bad runs deep. Fortunately, they eventually let us do our job and we were able to do the medical checks. One of the animals, Congo, is very old and his teeth have mostly rotted away and Tino is quite overweight, but they went through anesthetic well. After a hard goodbye for the family, we were allowed to leave with the animals, much to the relief of the entire team.”

Rode mopeds
The circus family offered to share what kind of lives Congo, Tino and Yimmy had anonymously and in writing only. That statement on why they finally decided to cooperate and with what feeling they said goodbye, is not yet available. Old Facebook photos show that the animals have been used for all kinds of shows and entertainment. They rode mopeds on the streets to promote the circus, did circus acts and lived as children with the circus family.

Photo: Facebook Circus

EU circus ban
At the end of last year, the French government announced a gradual circus ban on wild animals, but the ban has yet to be passed in the Senate. AAP director David van Gennep: “There are still hundreds of wild animals in French circuses. It is time to put an end to that outdated entertainment at the expense of animals wisely. AAP wants an EU-wide ban on wild animals in circuses to prevent circuses from moving to other countries. In the Netherlands we have a ban for over five years now, but the problem has not yet been solved in Europe. The fact that it took so long before there was room for these animals also indicates that more rescue capacity is needed. The EU must facilitate this so that we and our partner organizations can offer the animals, that will hopefully soon come out of all those European circuses, the life they deserve.”

Costly care
Congo, Tino and Yimmy have now started their three-month quarantine to ensure they cannot transmit diseases to caretakers and other animals. After that, they will be visible when outdoors for those who walk the ‘Rondje AAP’ or book a tour (subject to corona measures). AAP asks the public to donate for the costly care of the animals. The animal welfare organization is completely dependent on gifts and donations.

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