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Goodbye To Gregoire An Unlikely Ambassador

Updated on March 15, 2011

A Gentle Soul!

Sadly, the world has lost a great ambassador, and Congo has lost a national hero. You may have heard of Gregoire.  He was a well-known celebrity in Congo, and stories about him are lively and numerous there.  He has been on television and magazine covers despite his rather unusual appearance, which along with his mellow and gentle personality, made him quite memorable.  You see, Gregoire was very tall and wizened.  He was also missing quite a few teeth.  Nonetheless, he was an excellent and respected ambassador for the Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) ongoing work in protecting chimpanzees, ending the illegal bushmeat trade, and promoting sustainable jobs in Africa.  Gregoire was the oldest known chimp in Africa.  He will be remembered as a “gentle soul”.  

A Quiet Passing

As reported on the JGI website, Gregoire was found dead in his eucalyptus leaf bed on the morning of December 17th, 2008. He was about 65 years old. He apparently died in his sleep, and he will be buried at the Jane Goodall Institute Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center - a sanctuary for orphaned chimps where he spent his golden years.

A Chimp Alone Is No Chimp At All!

This chimp in Lisbon, Portugal suffers as Gregoire once did.  (See photo credits at end.)
This chimp in Lisbon, Portugal suffers as Gregoire once did. (See photo credits at end.)

Imprisoned For Decades

Gregoire spent the first 46 years of his life in a small, concrete and metal cage at the Brazzaville Zoo where Dr. Goodall met him in 1990.  After his years of confinement and poor care, he barely resembled a chimp anymore.  Dr. Goodall arranged to have him better cared for and fed.  When civil war broke out in Congo in 1997, nearby shelling upset Gregoire tremendously and caused him to injure himself trying to hide.  At this time Dr. Goodall had him moved by helicopter to JGI in Tchimpounga.   

Better Late Than Never!

These chimps enjoy the kind of friendship Gregoire enjoyed in his golden years. (See photo credits at end.)
These chimps enjoy the kind of friendship Gregoire enjoyed in his golden years. (See photo credits at end.)

Party Animal!

According to the JGI website, Gregoire enjoyed the latter part of his life tremendously.  He finally had plenty of space with a garden specially built for him, plenty of friends, both chimp and human, and the opportunity to relax, play, and celebrate.  He enjoyed spending time with his three female dorm mates, playing chase and having his leg pulled (literally) by his caretakers. He enjoyed people and chimp watching and eating treats.   He also enjoyed a birthday party every year and was described as a real showman when it came to opening his presents and sharing his joy with the crowd.  Gregoire clearly understood that it was his party, and he was the star. He enjoyed having visitors and having his picture taken.  

More About Chimpanzees

Photo Credits

The photos in this article are not photos of Gregoire.  They are stock photos.

CHIMP IN LISBON ZOO Photographer: jmax@flickr: Attribution License:  CHIMP FRIENDS Photographer: thebuffafamily: Attribution License:

To see actual pictures of Gregoire, please visit JGI! 


Submit a Comment
  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Texas


    I don't remember reading that he did; however, I can't say that he didn't. There is probably more information about that at Jane Goodall's website. I did choose the photo of the 2 chimps hugging because I read that he had the opportunity to live in group settings and form good chimp relationships.

  • Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 

    9 years ago from The Ozarks

    Suzanne, I just now noticed this hub.

    Do you happen to know whether Gregoire had any surviving children or grandchildren? Did he have the opportunity to start a family or participate in family life?

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Texas

    Thank you for your comment! :)

  • LRobbins profile image


    9 years ago from Germany

    Thanks for sharing. I cannot imagine spending 46 years int he conditions that he did, but am glad that he was finally rescued.

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Texas

    My pleasure! :)

  • Cindy Letchworth profile image

    Cindy Letchworth 

    9 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

    Very touching. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from Texas

    Good heavens! Thanks!

  • marketingmergenow profile image


    10 years ago from Spokane

    Great hub! It shows that you have worked hard. Excellent work! I really think you did your homework. I have to say that you have some real potential here. Thank you for this inspiring article, I enjoyed it.


  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from Texas

    I am glad that Gregoire had a happy retirement and quiet passing. I just love the work Jane Goodall does.

  • Mighty Mom profile image

    Susan Reid 

    10 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

    Heartwarming. Chimps are wonderful animals and so social. Thanks for bringing this sad death to our attention. MM


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