Tomorrow means freedom for Manno the Chimp

Conservation News from Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Project to End Great Ape Slavery


(Posted 28th November 2016)


Ol Pejeta Conservancy rescues endangered chimpanzee
from illegal captive life and brings him to Kenya

An unprecedented event will take place on 29th of November when the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq waves farewell to Manno, a 4-year old chimpanzee from Africa. He is being relocated to the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya, a home for chimpanzees in need. This is serious cause for celebration as Ol Pejeta and its advocacy project PEGAS have been fighting for Manno’s release for over a year.

Manno was born in a Damascus zoo, torn from his mother at a young age. Until now, he sat in a cage in northern Iraq, close to territory occupied by the Islamic State. The only time he has been allowed out of his cage is when he is dressed up in clothes and used as a photo prop for paying zoo visitors.

What we know of Manno’s history starts in 2013, when he was smuggled out of war-torn Syria into northern Iraq. He was bought for $15,000 by a small private zoo close to Erbil, and quickly became the main attraction. The zoo owner did not follow the proper procedures for importing a CITES Appendix I animal, which rendered Manno’s import illegal. CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, has placed great apes under the most protective category, Appendix I, which means that no commercial trade is allowed.

Since 2013, visitors have been paying to have photos taken with the young chimpanzee, play with him and give him sugary sweets and sodas. The alien diet gives Manno constant diarrhea, but allowing visitors to feed him is a money earner.

Manno’s first glimmer of hope arrived in Christmas of 2014 in the form of Canadian volunteer Spencer Sekyer. Spencer came to Erbil to work at the zoo, and fell head over heels in love with Manno. He vowed to try and help him.

In 2015, Jane Goodall, the renowned great ape conservationist, went to speak near Spencer’s hometown of Edmonton, Alberta. He managed to get a quiet moment with her afterwards, and spoke of Manno’s plight. Jane promised to help, and got hold of Ol Pejeta Conservancy. At Sweetwaters, our doors are never closed to chimpanzees in need. We called in the coordinator of the Ol Pejeta-initiated Project to End Great Ape Slavery (PEGAS) and got to work.

It seemed like Mission Impossible. Freeing a chimpanzee from a private zoo in northern Iraq with Islamic State fighting just 40 kilometers away. Working closely with Spencer, PEGAS started reaching out to regional contacts who could help. Time after time they were met with bureaucratic roadblocks, but they were relentless. Eventually, they got hold of the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, where Duhok zoo is located. He sympathised with Manno, and issued a decree that Manno should be freed, and relocated to Sweetwaters Sanctuary. Victory, at last.

Mr. Ahmed Oathman, an advisor to the Council of Ministers of the Kurdistan Regional Government, who was instrumental in implementing the prime minister’s decree, said, “Promoting wildlife conservation has long been a priority of the Kurdistan Regional Government, along with combating illegal trafficking of animals.” The release of Manno demonstrates that the KRG meant what it said.

Animals Lebanon, an animal welfare organization based in Beirut, arranged the relocation in collaboration with Ol Pejeta’s Project to End Great Ape Slavery. Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, located in the shadow of Mt. Kenya, is part of the scenic Ol Pejeta Conservancy, an award-winning home to thousands of wild animals, including the last three northern white rhinos on Earth.

Manno should be happy on Sweetwaters, learning to live with other chimpanzees in freedom.

Meet Manno. In a bit more than 48 hours, Manno should be at his new home at Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. He will no longer be a pet, but will learn to live with other chimpanzees, in freedom.


This is the tiny cage Manno is kept in by his captors.
The crate that will bring Manno home all the way from Iraq.
About Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Ol Pejeta Conservancy occupies approximately 360 square kilometers of African savannah within the Laikipia District of Kenya and incorporates the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Laikipia carries large and growing wildlife populations and is home to almost 50% of Kenya’s black rhino population. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy works to conserve wildlife, provide a sanctuary for great apes and to generate income through wildlife tourism and complementary enterprise for reinvestment in conservation and community development.
About PEGAS (Project to End Great Ape Slavery)
The Project to End Great Ape Slavery aims to understand and document this sinister trafficking in great apes, map trade routes and identify individuals involved as well as using information gathered from project activities to lobby for effective law enforcement. Where opportunities exist to repatriate illegally exported chimpanzees to Africa, the project will work with Ol Pejeta Conservancy’s Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary and the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) to achieve this.