Escape to Chimp Eden

Escape to Chimp Eden
Courtesy Animal Planet/Discovery Comm,

Friday, May 16, 2008

Why This Blog? To Save a Chimpanzee?

Several months ago, the cable/satellite network, Animal Planet (owned by Discovery Networks, LLC) premiered a new show entitled, "Escape to Chimp Eden." It is hosted by a young South African Man, Eugene Cussins, who along with his father, plus head keeper Phillip Cronje and several other workers, run this amazingly, beautiful and natural Eden for chimps that have been rescued from all over the southern African continent.

Similar to what is happening to orangutans in Sumatra and Borneo and the great silver back gorillas of central Africa, adult chimps are being shot and butchered for bush meat for local tribes, and the orphaned babies are either left to die or kidnapped to be sold in the illegal pet trade business.

Eugene never planned on making this his life's work. He had wanted to me a software magnate, hugely successful, with the ability to watch and/or play cricket and rugby at his leisure. Instead, he finds himself traveling to dark, secret markets, where rumours have it that chimp meat is being sold and/or babies are up for sale. His goal? To rescue every orphan he can and give him/her the opportunity to live as much of a natural chimpanzee life as possible, at the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden in South Africa (

Currently, the program, "Escape to Chimp Eden," is in re-broadcasts on the Animal Planet, with a new season coming soon. However, if I had just wanted to tell you about the program, I wouldn't have gone through this effort to set-up this blog. There is more to tell you about.

The land upon which the sanctuary is located was settled by Eugene's grandfather and has been in his family for over eighty years. Besides housing the buildings and huge outdoor play and training area for the chimps, the Institute also takes in many other types of wild strays and orphans. Thus, there is a large amount of the sanctuary that is never seen on an episode and something happened there, And something did, just a few months ago.

As many of us are in countries around the world, South Africa had an especially dry summer season, with the danger of grass and brush fires looming every minute. A carelessly discarded cigarette, a casually-douses campfire, or even a stray bold of lighting, could light this tinder off into a raging inferno. And so it did, right in the middle of the sanctuary.

The call went out for everyone on staff to come and help fight a huge brush fire down in a section of the sanctuary covered with dry, fallen timbers and brush. Just looking towards it from the main building, they could all see a huge plume of smoke. The problem here though, when that call goes out, is that there is no fire brigade (fire department) anywhere near where the sanctuary is located. There are no pull-boxes and no dialing "9-11" to request a fire engine, Additionally, the nearest airbase that could launch aircraft for water drops is hours away, BY AIR! Thus, the sanctuary is all on its own.

I am a former firefighter and there's an old adage that states, "You can take the boy out of the firehouse, but you'll never get the firehouse out of the boy!" I can vouch for how true that is. When I watched this episode, it pained me to see that Eugene's father was driving the six-wheel truck with a couple of poly tanks on it and a small water pump. Add to this a few water cans strapped to the backs of some of the workers and you were seeing the entire compliment of firefighting equipment at the Sanctuary.

And I thought, how could I, sitting in my nice home in south Florida, allow this man, his family, friends, and co-workers, who give so much of their body and souls to protect these beautiful animals, fight these fires with such feeble tools. And then I had an idea.

For many years, Jewish organizations and private sponsors, have raised money to purchase ambulances (including Mobile Intensive Care Units and fully armored ambulances) for Israel's Emergency Medical Services, called the Maged David Adom. This organization is made up of between 98%-99% volunteers, who provide all levels of EMS services to all the residents of Israel, Jew, Muslim and Christian, alike. So I thought if they could do this for an ambulance, why couldn't a new group of dedicated people in the U.S. and around the world do the same thing, but by a small, but powerful fire truck, that is specialized for fighting large grass and brush fires?!?

So I wrote to Susan Slotar, the Executive Director of the Sanctuary and presented my idea to her. She answered me the next day and was thrilled and touched that someone would understand that unique predicament and would take on the responsibility to try and help.

Now so far, here's where we are:
1. I have received an "okay" from the Sanctuary to work towards this goal.
2. I've also written to the Ellen DeGeneres Show, as she had Eugene as one of her guests, just a couple of weeks ago and she is a wonderful supporter of animals and humane causes. I haven't heard back from them yet, but I'll be sending her another email to day that the Blog has begun.
3. On Monday, I will be contacting my accountant to see about setting up an IRS 501(c)3 status for the organization, which would allow your financial contributions to be tax-deductible.
4. I am also calling several of the best fire-vehicle manufacturers in this country to get a good idea of what price target we're looking at,

But this is not a task I can do totally by myself. If you want to help in any way (not just your wallet!!!) please post your message here and we'll work out a way to contact each other via email, Skype, or IM, without risk

We all have the chance to do good in this world and make this world a better place to live in. I'm sure many of you have already made contributions to various organizations to provide aid to the people of Myanmar and China. I'm not even looking for money yet!!! I just need help putting this group together. Maybe you are, or know someone who is a great tax attorney and could help us incorporate and get our 501(c) 3 label. Maybe you work at Pierce, Emergency One, Saulsbury, or one of the other fire truck manufacturers. Whatever you can do is important My goal is to get this truck to the Sanctuary by the next South African summer season.

Please, reach out and lend a hand.

Till next time...

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