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Monkey World News

Marine goes ape at pet ban

The Sun

A HEARTBROKEN Royal Marines officer has been ordered to abandon a baby chimpanzee he rescued in war-torn Sierra Leone. Major Jez Hermer found the chimp being kicked around like a football at a jungle outpost and stepped in when it reached out and begged to be picked up. The soldier bought the ape for £60 after he discovered its mother had been killed and eaten by hunters. He named the chimp Harry, spent six months nursing him back to health at his UN base and found him a safe home back in Britain.

But Sierra Leone officials have refused to let Major Hermer take the animal, which refuses to leave his side.

Now top brass have ordered him to leave Harry at a cash-starved ape sanctuary in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, fearing further arguments may spark a diplomatic row.

Major Hermer, a volunteer military observer working at the UN base at Daru,rescued Harry last September.

Soon afterwards he said: "This tiny chimp holding out his hands and begging to be picked up was one of the more touching things I have seen.

"For the first three days Harry would not leave my side. He’s a bit more relaxed now — he will amble around by himself and only needs to be cuddled about every 15 minutes."

Major Hermer has now bowed to pressure to back down over his bid to bring two-year-old Harry home.

A military source said: "The major is absolutely heartbroken. The chimp sees him as a father — they’ve grown so close Harry has been known to cling to the bottom of the major’s helicopter when he tries to fly away.

"It’s going to be torture for them both when they’re forced to part."

Major Hermer had organised a place for Harry at the Monkey World ape rescue centre at Wareham, Dorset, and even found him a foster mum.

But he now faces an uncertain future at the cash-strapped Tacaguma sanctuary in unstable Freetown.

Sierra Leone’s Foreign Minister Dr Sama Banya said: "The fact that Major Hermer saved the chimp’s life is not the point at issue.

"If he was not protected by military immunity, the major would have been arrested by now for buying the animal because this trade is illegal here."

Jim Cronin, who runs Monkey World, said: "Major Hermer saved Harry from being used as a football but he’s now become a political football. He can’t win."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said yesterday: "The officer is disappointed but he is now happy that the chimp will be well looked after.

"At the end of the day, it is not the job of our soldiers to go to foreign countries and bring back animals."

© News Group Newspapers Ltd.

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