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A chimp’s cuddly plane trip went viral. The pilot wishes it never had to happen

In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, a viral video of a rescued chimpanzee's flight to a wildlife sanctuary has spread like wildfire. The NewsHour's Julia Griffin tracks down the video's pilot to ask about his mission to save Africa's imperiled primates.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to our "NewsHour" Shares, something that caught our eye.

    The video of a rescued chimpanzee's flight to wildlife sanctuary recently spread like wildfire on the Internet.

    The "NewsHour"'s Julia Griffin tracked down the video's pilot and asked about his mission to save Africa's imperiled primates.

  • Julia Griffin:

    It's a simple video that tugs at the heartstrings, A baby chimp bonds with, sleeps on, and even learns from the man flying him to a safer home.

    The pilot is Anthony Caere, Belgian aviator working for Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • Anthony Caere:

    Since I was a little boy, I had two big wishes. And it was flying small planes and animals. And when I had the opportunity to work for Virunga National Park, I grabbed it with two hands.

  • Julia Griffin:

    On a normal day, Caere is an eye in the sky, assisting rangers in anti-poaching patrols, wildlife censuses and other duties.

    But a few times a year, he ferries orphaned apes and monkeys 400 miles north to Lwiro Primate Rehabilitation Center. His passenger this time was Mussa, a 3-year-old chimpanzee recently rescued from poachers.

  • Anthony Caere:

    It's actually a very sad story, because they took that little chimp away from his family. They killed his family.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Poachers often sell slaughtered adult monkeys as bushmeat in local markets, but they prefer to peddle the baby animals as pets.

    Once confiscated from their captors, Lwiro provides primates like Mussa a safe space to recover. The organization cares for more than six dozen chimps and nearly 100 monkeys, many of which arrive malnourished, stressed and physically wounded from tight ropes and small cages, which is why, Caere says, most baby chimps are not restrained during his flights.

  • Anthony Caere:

    If you have like a really chill little baby chimp who is happy to be on your lap, and it holds you, then you have the wrong effect when you put it in a cage. Then it will totally freak out, start to cry. And it can die, actually.

    So we take the time to gain his trust, to feed him. And when he feels comfortable and he jumps on your arms and he holds you, then it's time to do the flight.

  • Julia Griffin:

    And while he is happy his video went viral, Caere emphasizes this flight should never have happened in the first place.

  • Anthony Caere:

    I hope the people not only say, OK, it's a cute movie, but the message is that that little chimp should be with his mom, and not on my lap.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Mussa is now in quarantine with other rescued baby chimps. When he is ready, he will be introduced to a new chimp family.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Julia Griffin.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And it restores your faith in people.

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