KANO, Nigeria: A disabled Nigerian boy believed to have been adopted and raised by chimpanzees for 18 months is in care in a specialist children's home in this northern city.
Boy adopted by chimps
Named Bello by nursing staff at the Tudun Maliki Torrey home in Kano, he was brought to them six years ago by hunters after being found with a chimpanzee family in the Falgore forest, 150km south of Kano, staff told AFP.
Believed to have been aged about two when he was taken in, Bello is probably the son of nomadic ethnic Fulani people who travel through the region, Abba Isa Muhammad, the home's child welfare officer, said.
Mentally and physically disabled, with a misshapen forehead, sloping right shoulder and protruding chest, he was probably abandoned by his parents because of his disabilities, Isa Muhammad said.
Such abandonments of disabled children are common among the nomadic Fulani, a pastoralist people who travel great distances across the west African Sahel region, and in most instances the children die, specialists told AFP.
But in Bello's case, he was apparently adopted by a family of chimpanzees, Isa Muhammad said.
"We do not know exactly how long he would have been with the chimps. Based on the traits he exhibits, we estimate that he would have been adopted when he was no more than six months old and nursed by a nursing chimp," the welfare officer said.
When he was first brought in, Bello, who is about the size and weight of a four-year-old, walked in a chimpanzee-like fashion, moving on his hind legs but dragging his arms on the ground, the home's matron, A'isha Ibrahim, told AFP.
Still today he leaps, chimpanzee-like, and claps his hands over his head repeatedly, cupping his hands, as monkeys do, and does not speak but makes chimpanzee-like noises.
"When Bello was brought here in 1996, he used to walk like a monkey, with his feet and hands on the ground. He would jump and grunt or squeak like a chimpanzee," Ibrahim said.
"At first he was very restless. He would leap about at night from bed to bed in the dormitory where we put him with the other children. "He would disturb the other children and smash and throw things. Now he is much calmer," she said, adding that all the staff were fond of the boy.
Isa Muhammad, the home's welfare officer, said staff had initially hoped that someone might come forward to claim the boy, but realised now that that was not going to happen.
"We are trying to see what we can do for him. We do not know how many years he will have to be here," he said.
Animal Rights FAQ
Chimpanzee Fact Sheet
Monkey Sense of Justice
Are Chimpanzees Human?
Chimpanzees: First Contact