A moving video of an orphaned baby chimpanzee cuddling up to his rescue pilot tugged at the heartstrings of thousands of viewers. But the pilot who helped save the animal wants the public to never forget the pain the chimp and others like him continue to experience.
Belgian aviator Anthony Caere, who works for Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, told PBS in an interview that aired Friday that he wished his special time with the chimp would never have happened. Caere is seen ferrying the chimp, Mussa, to the Lwiro Primate Rehab Centre, in a video posted early in March. The orphan was confiscated from a man after Mussa had been taken from the wild and Mussa's family killed by poachers. While adult chimps are often killed for bushmeat, their young offspring are sold as pets.
The rehab centre currently cares for more than six dozen chimps and nearly 100 monkeys. Many of the young animals arrive starving, stressed and injured by tight ropes and small cages, PBS reported. That's why Caere doesn't restrain baby chimps on his flights.
"A baby needs hugs and compassion instead of being locked up in a cage during a stressful flight," Caere said on his Facebook page.
On Saturday Caere posted on Facebook that his "son" was doing well, adding: "I wish you a happy life, sweet little guy!"
But while this story might have a happy ending, Caere doesn't want people to forget that Mussa's life could have been much better. "I hope the people not only say, okay, it's a cute movie, but the message is that that little chimp should be with his mom, and not on my lap," he told PBS.
Check out Caere's full interview with PBS here.