By Olga Feliu
It seems like it was just yesterday when we arrived at the centre with the first chimpanzees from Valencia. In those moments, the trustees of the Foundation (persuaded by me), and I faced a huge challenge; caring for some chimpanzees for the rest of their lives. A dream was coming true but with it came many responsibilities.
Coming from the veterinary world with some experience in African sanctuaries and especially with an innate positivity, it did not seem too difficult to carry out a project like the one that began on the 26th February 2001 in Riudellots de la Selva.
However, difficulties arrived! Facilities had to be cleaned, food had to be bought, stored, prepared and given, the building works at the centre had to be finished, and at the same time we had to be in close proximity to the chimps. We slept in a trailer next to the facilities. We had no van, no fridge and just enough money to get by. Plus there were only 3 of us!
Fortunately before long, volunteers began arriving and we were able to start sharing tasks which allowed me to begin dedicating myself to promoting the project.
I remember the comment of a friend who is an expert in starting projects. He congratulated me for the initiative and said that a project as ambitious as this required at least 10 years to see if it could work. I almost had a heart attack when I heard it! I could not believe it but from all his experience he knew that it was true. I have said many times since that he was absolutely right and he knows my thoughts exactly.
Now after 10 years we now see the results of the work carried out over all this time. An exceptional team has been built around MONA. A team that’s been able to make sacrifices for the project and remain highly professional qualified and constantly motivated.
We have given opportunities to many primate lovers to gain professional experience by being trained and consequently they’ve had more open doors to the world of primatology and conservation.
18 chimpanzees and 6 macaques have arrived at our facilities, although not all of them are still with us. We are very proud to have dedicated our time and effort for each and every one of them, enriching their lives every day and being able to give back to them what one day man stole; their dignity.
Never again will they enjoy the African rainforest nor recover the bond with their mothers so necessary for the development of a species so close to ours. At Mona we will continue working to give them what they need most; respect, a social group where they can recover the typical behaviors of their species, and a place to get back to be what they really are.
We will not stop here because there are still many others who need help. We will continue to help protect those who are left in the wild, and we will continue to promote the study of these fascinating creatures to raise awareness to as many people as possible.
It's been 10 years of struggle, sadness, happiness and new friends. Some come, some go but they all remain in the memory of Mona.
My sincere thanks to all of you that help us, for your confidence in the project, and for helping to make a dream a reality today.