This is a story written by my friend in US, Sonia A. Cooper.
She grew up in Liberia and wrote this story based on her experiences there.
She wrote this for children aged around 12, so if you are a Tadokist, reading easy and simple stories to learn English, this one is just right.
MY RUNAWAY CHIMP
Sonia A. Cooper
One day, when Dad had gone in search of stranded animals, I was outdoors giving baby Zipper his first bath. Chimps hate water and he was screaming in protest. My dad is a veterinarian who runs a wildlife orphanage in west Africa. We rescue and care for these animals, returning them to their natural habitat when they are ready.
"Calm down, Zip," I begged. I had watched Dad bathe chimps dozens of times and I gave my first bath when I turned twelve last year. I only worked with infants up to two years though, because I had a weak leg from when I broke it two years ago. I still felt nervous handling the chimps alone. Whenever one ran off, we had a problem. One chimpanzee stranded in the wild is an easy target for poachers. Even groups of Chimps are easily ambushed. Poachers tranquilize them and sell them to the highest bidder for zoos, circuses and cruelest of all, research.
"Come on, Zip, getting clean can't be all bad," I coaxed. I lathered him with a soapy scrub pad and then realized his bath medication for dry skin was in Dad's office. Glancing around I saw Johnny, a fourteen year old chimp, sitting under a palm tree chattering to himself. I let go of Zip's wrists, which I held pinned together behind his back with one hand, to sign to Johnny to fetch the medication. Taking quick advantage of the situation, Zipper ran away.
"Zipper, come back here!" I yelled uselessly. Favoring my left leg, I limped across the yard and into the kitchen to leave Dad a note. I felt a slight ache in my leg. It pained me regularly at the smallest exertion. I was scheduled for surgery next month. Outdoors again, my attention back to Zip, I signed, "Johnny, help Adam find Zipper."
Johnny responded, "Zipper go that way." We started in the direction he pointed. I saw Zip in the distance. He was going fast and chattering loudly.
The more I yelled "Zipper," the faster he ran. When a white jeep drove up and slowed down alongside Zip, my heart sank. I watched helplessly as one of
two mocha -skinned poachers, rifles in sight, reached over and grabbed him. They drove off in a cloud of dust.
"Oh, Lord, what am I going to do now?" I said. "Dad will be so mad." Just then, a beat-up truck carrying native women, plantains, bananas, cassavas and watermelons for the market drove up behind us. "Hold it, hold it," I yelled. It slowed down enough to allow us to jump on. As the truck slowly made its way into town, I rubbed my aching leg. But I couldn't think about that now. I had to find Zipper.
I no longer saw the jeep but I knew poachers sold their captives at the market. As soon as we pulled in, I eased down from the truck. "Let's go, Johnny," I signed. I held
out my hand to help him down. We walked towards the crowd. The heavy smells of
dried goat meat and fried snapper fish filled the air. Dozens of buyers and sellers bargained loudly.
"Hey, have you seen a white jeep with two men and a chimp?" I asked a boy eating a mango.
"Over there," he pointed, holding his hand out for my tip.
"Hold my hand, Johnny," I said, grabbing hold of his hand instead of bothering to sign. "Let's not get separated." I started in the direction the boy had pointed, trying to ignore my aching leg. I knew I was pushing it, but I had no choice.
We'd walked about ten yards when I saw the white jeep under an isolated coconut tree. The two poachers stood beside it smoking and talking to a khaki clad, bronze-skinned gentleman. Their rifles were still in sight. About five yards away was a rusty cage holding four baby chimps.
I pulled Johnny behind a nearby cotten tree. "Johnny, quiet!" I signed, mindful of his natural tendency to chatter. Spying from behind the bulky tree trunk, I saw Zipper among the caged youngsters. I sighed with relief. But I was scared too. I had to figure out a way to rescue Zipper without getting caught. Poachers could be ruthless.
I sized up the situation. The three men were in a heated argument. One of the poachers said loudly, "Two hundred dollars for one, that's it."
The gentleman argued, "that's too much. I'll give you four hundred for all." Here was my chance while they were distracted.
"Johnny, quiet!" I signed again. Quietly, I dropped to my knees, crawling
towards the cage. When I got close enough, I reached up to lift the latch. That's when
one of the poachers spotted me.
"Stop! What are you doing?" he yelled, storming in my direction. I had to make my move now. I yanked up the latch. The chimps took off in four different directions. I grabbed Zipper's wrist as he zipped past me and then tried jumping to my feet to run. My leg collapsed under me. My heart fell with it. The poacher pointed his rifle at me and barked, "Get up, you!"
"I can't," I said, "my leg hurts." The other men rushed over.
"Get up, I said," the poacher repeated.
My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Zip clung to my side as I raised my hands in surrender.
Suddenly, loud chattering coming from the direction of the market demanded our attention. Johnny approached at top speed, dragging my dad along by the hand. Dad looked strong and reassuring, especially with the armed police officer by his side.
While the officer arrested the poachers, Dad asked, "Adam, are you all right, son?" I nodded tearfully as he helped me to my feet.
"I'm sorry, Dad," I said apologically.
"That's all right buddy, you did good," he smiled reassuringly. I looked down and grinned at Zipper, still clunging to my side. Zip and I are inseparable still to this day.