Photo by Mark Crowe.
PASA Sanctuary Director Receives Recognition from Jane Goodall
PASA member sanctuaries are led by incredible individuals, who are pioneers in their field.
by Natasha Tworoski

PASA is pleased to share the news that Dr. Rebeca Atencia of PASA member Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center recently received very prestigious recognition. As part of their “Women of the Future” feature, media source Newsweek asked 20 women leaders to nominate an up-and-comer who they believe is inspiring the world. Rebeca Atencia was selected by Dr. Jane Goodall, for her fearless, unyielding dedication to chimpanzees.

(Photo © the Jane Goodall Institute / by Fernando Turmo)

Rebecca is executive director of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in the Republic of Congo, as well as manager and head veterinarian of JGI’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center. The largest sanctuary in Africa, Tchimpounga is home to over 150 chimpanzees and is also a member of PASA. Since joining Tchimpounga, Atencia has additionally completed a doctoral thesis in chimpanzee physiology, focusing on cardiology. She is a woman who breaks boundaries, such as the time when she performed the first chimpanzee-to-chimpanzee blood transfusion completed in Africa. As part of her role as executive director, she additionally trains local veterinary workers, coordinates community outreach education programs throughout the nation and conducts observational research on rehabilitated chimpanzees. Her knowledge and expertise are versatile and driven by her passion for our closest relatives.

Another one of her many accomplishments includes the incorporation of three nearby islands for semi-rehabilitated chimpanzees. For various health and social reasons, these chimpanzees are unable to be completely reintroduced to the wild, but when returned to these islands, they are able to thrive and enjoy the next best thing – living in a proper social group with plenty of forest to thrive in. Additionally, this has allowed the sanctuary to have the space to take in more rescued chimpanzees.

Rebeca Atencia was nominated by Dr. Jane Goodall, who first met Rebeca years ago in her native country, Spain. When Jane visited Rebeca in the Republic of Congo one year later, she was impressed with her dedication and comfort at living with no modern conveniences while observing and learning from rehabilitated chimpanzees. Given all that Dr. Rebeca Atencia has accomplished in the time since, it is no surprise that Jane Goodall chose her for this great honor.

Congratulations, Rebecca, and thank you for all that you do!

Dr. Jane Goodall and Dr. Atencia release chimpanzee Wounda back to the forest. (Photo © the Jane Goodall Institute / by Fernando Turmo)

Rebeca Atencia is the head veterinarian to over 150 chimpanzees. (Photo © the Jane Goodall Institute / by Fernando Turmo)