Escape to Chimp Eden
Starring:: Eugene Cussons
Created By:: Phil Fairclough, Dave Harding, Erik Nelson and Oloff Bergh (executive producers)
Airs: Fridays at 9:00 p.m. EST on Animal Planet

Animal Planet’s new series, Escape to Chimp Eden shows the challenges involved in rescuing orphaned chimps from war-torn countries in Africa and rehabilitating them so that someday hopefully they’ll be able to return to the wild. In the pilot episode, Eugene Cussons attempts to rescue Josephine, a chimp held in a cage in Luanda, Angola. Her owner plans to put her down so Cussons has a limited amount of time to get her out of there.

While he’s working on getting permission to do that, he looks around the area to see if there are any other chimps that need rescuing. Sure enough, there are two being held in a horrifically small cage and are regularly taunted by people in the area. After getting permission to take the two chimps away from there, Cussons has to try and get them out of their tiny cage and into his crate. That turns out to be quite the challenge as the monkeys are wary of people and unsure that going from a tiny cage to an even tinier crate is the best idea.

In addition to being charismatic (not to mention good looking) enough for television, Cussons’ compassion and bravery really add to the appeal of this series. Plus, who doesn’t love monkeys? They’re like adorable furry babies. Or in this case, scared, strong furry babies with sharp teeth and the potential to have highly contagious diseases. This is what makes Escape to Chimp Eden so interesting as a series. It’s clear that while Cussons genuinely cares about the well being of the chimps, he also recognizes that caged, frightened and potentially sick animals can be a threat no matter how cute they look when they’re swinging around. I found it difficult at times to see just how bad things are for these chimps but there was definitely a payoff at the end when we get to see Josephine, just a few days after her rescue, already looking healthier and happier.

I don’t generally spend a lot of time watching Animal Planet but when I saw the advertisement for this series during the pre-trailer commercials at the movie theater one night, I made a point to check it out and I’m glad I did. While the first episode really focused on getting these three chimps out of their cages and into a better facility, I’m really hoping to see more of the rehabilitation side of the story. I’m curious to see how long it takes for the chimps (some of which have been in captivity and abused for years) to become readjusted to normal, healthy surroundings.

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