Pilot Flying Rescued Baby Chimp to Safety Is a Heart-Melting Thing

Screen capture. Anthony Caere

The moral of the story is: Some people are awful, some people are heroes, and baby chimps are irresistable.

Sometimes lately, the news of the world is so consuming that I miss the really special things – which is apparently what happened last week when social media went nuts over #hotpilot and the baby chimp. But I finally saw the video today, and maybe it made me cry happy-sad tears, and so I thought that others may have missed it as well, and that they should also have the chance to maybe cry happy-sad tears.

The quick backstory goes like this. The Twitter-dubbed #hotpilot is Anthony Caere, a Belgian pilot who oversees Virunga National Park's four-plane Air Wing and serves as a "big brother in the sky" for its rangers, according to The Washington Post. They report that Caere's duties include "supporting rangers’ anti-poaching patrols, doing surveillance for wildlife censuses, inspecting poaching sites and carrying out medical evacuations." He flies out every morning on the hunt for poachers, and doesn't return until the end of the day.

The Kleenex-requiring video shows Caere bringing a three-month old chimp named Mussa from the park to Lwiro Primates, a rehab sanctuary for almost 200 orphaned chimpanzees and monkeys in Congo. The center rescues animals from poachers as well as the pet trade, with an eye to releasing these incredible primates back into the wild whenever possible. Lwiro says that the adults are often killed for bushmeat; the babies are sold for pets for $20 to $50 per chimp.

The video really is a mixed bag. Caere's care and affection are palpable – and that so many people are likewise dedicated to protecting and caring for these victims of poaching is deeply moving. Plus, dear baby chimp, you are so precious – gazing out the window, curious, napping. But that the situation is such in the first place is devastating. As Caere writes in the video, “This looks cute but is actually a sad story. He should be with his mum.”

Hopefully, with enough of these good people on the job, poaching can be quelled, conservation boosted, and future chimps will never have to know what it's like to fly through the sky to a rescue center ... even if it is in the lap of a #hotpilot.