Warning: This video may make you cry!
Tears of joy, that’s it.
That’s because this lost little baby chimp reunites with his family where he can be happy and loved like he’s never been before.
But not so long ago, Leo was alone in this cruel world.
Instead of being in the wild with his family, Leo ended up in the most bizarre place.
“Leo was first reported living at a bar,” said Jenny Desmond. co-founder of Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection (LCRP). “Unfortunately by the time we received the report and sent a team to the bar, the chimpanzee was no longer there.”
Every time chips are taken from the wild, they can end up in the darkest and worst reaches of the world, dressed up as dolls and kept as Instagrammable exotic pets or chained and locked in cages (which often happens when they become aggressive and too big to handle).
Luckily, Desmond and her husband Jim, with whom she runs the sanctuary for dislodged chimpanzees, refused to give up. They did everything they could to track down this poor baby chimp, who was last seen in the local bar.
And of course, their efforts paid off.
“He had been spirited away and hidden in the dame town but behind a home,” said Desmond. “Through some investigation authorities were informed there was a chimpanzee being kept at this location…We were thrilled we had not completely lost Leo forever.”
Before meeting any of the other chimps, Leo needed some time to recover and adjust to his new home at the sanctuary.
“They spend some alone time with us so they can wind down, learn to trust and gain a bit of physical strength,” explained Desmond. “We also have to assess them medically and Jimmy gives them a basic health check. We work with them to eat and re-hydrate and, most of all, sit with them so they get lots of TLC, as we know the trauma they’ve experienced.”
Finally, Leo was introduced to the youngest group of chimps at the sanctuary – but he “had something other on mind,” said Desmond.
“After a day, he spotted the middle group (in the video) and rushed to the door asking to meet them,” she said. “We decided to allow this to happen under close and careful supervision and it ended up being one of the most amazing interactions we’ve witnessed.”
The Desmonds allowed Leo choose which group felt most like home to him – and they knew right away that he belonged with the older chimps, who kept welcoming him and lining up to give him a hug.
“He was embraced fully and chose to stay with the group full time from this moment on,” LCRP wrote on Instagram.
Leo is not alone in the world anymore, for sure.
“Leo and his ‘sisters and brothers’ will continue to live out their days with their caregivers at their sides,” said Desmond. “They spend their days playing, climbing, interacting with one another, eating nutritious meals and simply being chimps.”
Because the sanctuary is full of other chimps who have needed to be rescued and cared for like Leo, the Desmonds are looking for a bigger place, but first they have to build the facilities for their special residents – 40 chimps so far, most of them under age 7.
“We have land we acquired with a large and beautiful forest,” said Desmond. “We are desperate to get the chimps to this new home. We want them to have what they deserve and a future that will be enriching for them – their life spans can be over 50 years!”
Hopefully, one day Desmond will stop receiving baby chimps. Part of what LCRP does is fight the illegal trafficking of chimps through strategic collaborations and educational programs. Their dream is that chimps like Leo “remain in the wild with their real families,” said Desmond, “safe and sound.”