Transcript: Finding Refuge: International Animal Rescue | Aug 15, 2019

Nam sits in the studio. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses and a black blazer over a pink shirt.

A caption on screen reads "Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine, @theagenda."

Nam says HOW MANY OF US WOULD SPEND
OUR VACATIONS TRAVELLING TO
UNDERSERVED PARTS OF THE WORLD
SO THAT WE COULD HELP
IN SOME WAY?
TEACHER AND
ADVENTURER SPENCER SEKYER HAS.
HIS NEW BOOK TAKES THAT ONE
STEP FURTHER, SOMETHING HE SEEMS
INCLINED TO DO IN MANY WAYS.
IT'S CALLED
SAVING MANNO:
WHAT A BABY CHIMP TAUGHT
ME ABOUT MAKING THE
WORLD A BETTER PLACE.

A picture of the book appears briefly on screen. The cover features a picture of a chimpanzee against a backdrop of green grass and a blue sky.

Nam continues AND SPENCER SEKYER
JOINS US NOW TO EXPLAIN.
HI.

Spencer is in his forties, clean-shaven, with short-cropped blond hair. He's wearing a lavender shirt and a printed blue tie.

He says HI.

NAM SAYS IT'S
VERY NICE TO MEET YOU.

Spencer says THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

Nam says FANTASTIC BOOK.

Spencer says THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Nam says UM, BEFORE WE START TALKING
ABOUT MANNO, I'M GOING TO TAKE
YOU BACK A LITTLE BIT.

Spencer says OKAY.

Nam says WE'VE GOT SOME
PICTURES TO SHOW YOU.
I THINK YOU
RECOGNIZE THIS YOUNG MAN.

Two pictures appear on screen of Spencer in his teens and twenties in hockey gear and football gear, respectively.

Spencer laughs and says WITH A MULLET AND EVERYTHING.

NAM SAYS SO GROWING UP AS A KID, YOU
WERE PRETTY ATHLETIC AND FOR A
WHILE, YOU TAUGHT PHYS ED.

SPENCER SAYS RIGHT.

NAM SAYS BUT HOW DID YOU MAKE
THE MOVE FROM BEING A PHYS ED
TEACHER TO A TEACHER
THAT TAUGHT SOCIAL STUDIES?

The caption changes to "Spencer Sekyer. Author, 'Saving Manno.'"
Then, it changes again to "Studying Social Studies."

Spencer says WELL, FIRST OF ALL, WITH THE
WHOLE THING OF BEING ATHLETIC,
ALL MY FRIENDS THAT I PLAYED
WITH SAID,
"HE WASN'T THAT GOOD, REALLY."
BUT I HAD ENOUGH EXPERIENCE IN
ATHLETICS AND PHYSICAL EDUCATION
THAT I COULD TEACH MY STUDENTS
FROM FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE.
YOU KNOW, I PLAYED UNIVERSITY
FOOTBALL, JUNIOR HOCKEY SO I
KNEW THAT WORLD.
AND WHEN I MADE THE TRANSITION
TO SOCIAL STUDIES, I WANTED TO
BE ABLE TO TEACH
FROM EXPERIENCE, RIGHT?
THERE'S A LINE IN THE MATT DAMON
MOVIE GOOD WILL HUNTING WHERE
ROBIN WILLIAMS' CHARACTER'S
TALKING TO DAMON'S CHARACTER AND
says, YOU KNOW,
"YOU'RE VERY SMART.
YOU KNOW EVERYTHING FROM THE
BOOK BUT DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT
SMELLS LIKE IN THE
SISTINE CHAPEL?"
PERFECT.
NOW I KNOW WHAT IT SMELLS
LIKE IN THE SISTINE CHAPEL.
SMELLS LIKE SWEATY TOURISTS BUT
THE FACT THAT YOU CAN BRING THAT
EXPERIENCE BACK TO YOUR STUDENTS
ABOUT MORE THAN JUST THE,
YOU KNOW, THE HISTORY OR WHAT
YOU CAN READ IN A BOOK.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Nam says YOU KNOW, WHEN PEOPLE TAKE THEIR
SUMMER VACATIONS, PEOPLE ARE
GOING TO THE COTTAGE OR MAYBE
THEY'RE GOING TO A PLACE WHERE
THEY CAN LIE ON A
BEACH AND EAT GREAT FOOD.
BUT INSTEAD, WHEN YOU STARTED
TEACHING HIGH SCHOOL, YOU WOULD
SPEND YOUR VACATIONS TRAVELLING
TO PLACES THAT PEOPLE MIGHT NOT
CONSIDER TO GO, INCLUDING
AFGHANISTAN, ETHIOPIA, AND HAITI.
WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO SPEND
YOUR VACATIONS THIS WAY?

Spencer says WELL, FIRST OF ALL, I MEAN, TO
ME, THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH
THOSE VACATIONS AND I'VE DONE
THOSE VACATIONS TOO AND THEY'RE
VALUABLE AND THEY
CAN BE ENJOYABLE.

NAM SAYS BUT SOME OF THESE PLACES
ARE PLACES THAT ARE CONSIDERED,
YOU KNOW, TO BE AT WAR.

Spencer says FOR SURE, FOR SURE.

Nam says CIVIL UNREST.

The caption changes to "Spencer Sekyer, @MrSekyer."

Spencer says BUT AS FAR AS THE NICE PLACES, I
MEAN, THERE'S ONE LIKE, I'M ON
THE LAKE IN THE OKANAGAN AND,
"THERE'S GOTTA BE SOMETHING A
LITTLE BIT MORE."
LIKE YOU HAVE ALL THIS OPULENCE
AND SO YEAH, I JUST... I WAS DRAWN
TO PLACES TO LEARN FOR MYSELF
AND I WANTED TO TEACH FROM
EXPERIENCE AND A COLLEAGUE
OF MINE, DAN REDEKER,
JUST A BEAUTIFUL MAN, HE
LOST HIS YOUNG DAUGHTER.
AND SITTING IN THAT SERVICE,
YOU KNOW, HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE AND
JUST TO LISTEN TO HER MISSION
IN LIFE WAS JUST TO HELP.
JUST TO DO GOOD IN THE WORLD AND
YOU KNOW, YOU'RE SITTING THERE
AND THIS ONE BEAUTIFUL YOUNG
SOUL IS NEVER GOING TO HAVE
THAT OPPORTUNITY.
WHAT'S STOPPING ME?
WHAT'S STOPPING ME FROM GOING
OUT AND THAT'S KIND OF WHEN THE
LIGHT WENT ON AND I JUST, YOU
KNOW... AND I PROPOSED IT TO MY
WIFE AND SHE'S LIKE, "DO IT."

NAM SAYS DO IT.

Spencer says SHE'S ALWAYS BEEN SO SUPPORTIVE
AND REALLY, IN A LOT OF WAYS,
I HOPE THAT THIS BOOK
DOES MELISSA JUSTICE.
I STILL GET EMOTIONAL ACTUALLY,
EVEN THINKING AND TALKING ABOUT
IT NOW AND I HOPE THAT PART
OF HER LEGACY IS THAT THIS CAN
INSPIRE PEOPLE TO GO OUT IN
THE WORLD AND DO SOME GOOD.

Nam says UM, SO YOU DECIDE THAT THE FIRST
PLACE THAT MAYBE YOU COULD GO
AND HELP AND THEN BRING
BACK WHAT YOU LEARNED TO YOUR
STUDENTS, YOU DECIDE TO
VOLUNTEER IN SIERRA LEONE.

SPENCER SAYS RIGHT.

A globe appears on screen and spins over to Africa. Then, the view homes in on Sierra Leone, in Western Africa.

Nam says HOW PREPARED WERE YOU FOR THE
EXPERIENCE OF TEACHING
IN A COUNTRY THAT WAS
RECOVERING FROM CIVIL WAR?

SPENCER SAYS I WAS NOT, TO BE BLUNT.
IT WAS... I THOUGHT... I MEAN, I
KIND OF HAD A PHILOSOPHY OF THE
FIRST PLACE TO GET BACK TO
ME, THAT'S WHERE I'M GOING.
AND SO I HAD APPLIED
TO NUMEROUS PLACES.
I HAD A FASCINATION WITH SIERRA
LEONE BECAUSE OF THE CIVIL WAR
AND THE SITUATION
WITH THE BLOOD DIAMONDS.
AND SO... AND THEN THEY
SPOKE ENGLISH, SO I THOUGHT.
AND SO, OKAY, THIS WOULD BE A
GOOD FIRST PLACE TO GO AND YEAH,
I JUST WENT THERE AND WAS REALLY
UNPREPARED FOR THE DISCREPANCY
OF MY EXPECTATIONS AND WHAT WAS
REALITY ON THE GROUND IN
SIERRA LEONE.
AT THAT TIME, I THINK
THE UN HAD RATED IT THE
SECOND-LEAST LIVABLE PLACE ON
THE PLANET
AND WHEN I WENT IN, IT WAS LIKE,
I'M... ON A POSITIVE,
EVERY OTHER TRAVEL IS SEEN
RELATIVELY EASY IN COMPARISON.

Nam says DID YOU SECOND GUESS YOURSELF?
AT ANY POINT WHEN YOU WERE
THERE, DID YOU THINK,
"WHAT HAVE I DONE?"

Spencer says WHEN I LANDED, I SAID,
"WHAT HAVE I GOT MYSELF INTO?"
FOR SURE.
I MEAN, IT WAS... IT ENDED UP
BEING SUCH A POSITIVE,
AMAZING EXPERIENCE.
AND THE PEOPLE TO GO THROUGH
SUCH DEVASTATION AND TO HAVE
SUCH BEAUTY... THEY TALK, THEY
SING, THEY'RE HAPPY... WAS A REAL
EYE-OPENER.
PEOPLE, BY WESTERN STANDARDS,
THEY DON'T HAVE MUCH,
WAS A VERY PROFOUND
EXPERIENCE FOR ME.

Nam says AND HOW DID YOUR EXPERIENCE IN
SIERRA LEONE TRANSLATE BACK INTO
THE CLASSROOM ONCE YOU
GOT BACK TO EDMONTON?

Spencer says WELL, AGAIN, MY HOPE WAS THAT I
COULD INSPIRE MY STUDENTS AND
PART OF IT WAS JUST TO COME BACK
WITH SUCH A SENSE OF GRATITUDE.
HOW LUCKY WE ARE.
SO FOR INSTANCE,
WHEN I'M LEAVING, YOU KNOW,
KIDS ARE... THEY'RE BAWLING
BECAUSE:
"CAN YOU PAY FOR MY SCHOOL?
IT'S 60, 70 dollars."
"OF COURSE I CAN.
BUT CAN I PAY FOR YOURS
AND YOURS AND YOURS?"
AND HERE WE ARE IN CANADA,
WE'VE GOT FREE EDUCATION.
YOU KNOW, WE'VE GOT EVERY
OPPORTUNITY AND YOU CAN'T BLAME
A 14-, 15-YEAR-OLD KID
FOR NOT APPRECIATING THAT.
I DIDN'T APPRECIATE IT AS AN
ADULT SO JUST TO INSTILL THAT
UPON MY STUDENTS IS HOW LUCKY WE
ARE TO LIVE IN THIS SOCIETY
OF CANADA AND NORTH AMERICA.

Nam says WELL, THIS IS BOOK IS SO... THIS
BOOK IS BASICALLY ABOUT THE
JOURNEY THAT YOU TOOK AS SOMEONE
WHO HADN'T REALLY TRAVELLED.
YOU START TO TRAVEL, YOU SEE THE
WORLD, AND THEN YOU FALL IN LOVE
WITH ANIMALS AND
YOU'RE RESCUING ANIMALS.
BUT WHEN YOU WERE A
CHILD, YOU NEVER HAD A PET.

Spencer says NO.

Nam says SO WHERE DID THIS LOVE OF
ANIMALS... WHERE DID THAT START?

The caption changes to "Pet project."

Spencer says WELL, THERE'S A COUPLE OF STRAY
CATS THAT KIND OF HUNG AROUND
OUR PLACE BUT YEAH, FOR THE MOST
PART, I WAS A... I GREW UP IN A
HUNTING FAMILY.
SO ANIMALS WERE OUTSIDE.
AGAIN, I THINK A LOT OF THAT
WAS A PRODUCT OF THE TIME.
BUT I GOT A DOG.
I WAS WITH A GIRLFRIEND.
SHE INSISTED THAT
WE GET THIS DOG.
I DIDN'T WANT THE DOG.
GOT THIS DOG AND THEN, IT JUST
OPENED UP THIS WHOLE WORLD OF
UNCONDITIONAL LOVE AND LOVE
TO ANOTHER BEING, OF ANOTHER
SPECIES THAT I DIDN'T KNOW
EXISTED AND AWAKENED IN ME,
YOU KNOW, FEELINGS AND
LIKE SUCH COMPASSION.
AND FAR MORE INTELLIGENCE, FAR
MORE PERSONALITY THAN I EVER
IMAGINED, YOU KNOW, CAPABLE OF
ANOTHER SPECIES AND IT WAS MY
FIRST DOG CHLOE AND THAT KIND
OF OPENED UP THIS WHOLE THING
OF ANIMALS.
SO JUST IN GOING TO THESE
DIFFERENT REGIONS, I'D ALWAYS
END UP, YOU KNOW, HELPING SOME
STRAY KITTEN OR SOME DOGS IN
AFGHANISTAN OR WHATEVER AND
I REALIZED THAT
THAT WAS MY PASSION.

Nam says AND THEN
EVENTUALLY, YOU MEET EMMA.
WHO IS EMMA?

Spencer says EMMA, OH YEAH, DEAR EMMA.
SO OUTSIDE MY GUEST HOUSE IN
KABUL, THERE WAS OBVIOUSLY THIS
STRAY STREET DOG HAD JUST
HAD, YOU KNOW, PUPPIES.
AND AGAIN, NOT TO DISPARAGE THE
PEOPLE OF AFGHANISTAN BECAUSE
YOU KNOW, SOMETIMES THE
DOGS ARE NOT FRIENDLY.
SOMETIMES THEY HAVE GOT DISEASE.
SOMETIMES THE PEOPLE ARE IN
DIFFICULT SITUATIONS SO ANIMALS
ARE FURTHER DOWN THE HIERARCHY
BUT EMMA WASN'T TREATED WELL.
ROCKS THROWN AT HER, YOU
KNOW, SHE MIGHT GET HIT BY A
BROOMSTICK FOR SLEEPING IN THE
WRONG PLACE SO ONE NIGHT, I JUST
SAW HER CROSS THE ROAD AND JUST
BEING AN ANIMAL LOVER... AND NOT
SAYING THAT THIS WAS THE
SMARTEST THING TO DO... BUT I WALK
OVER TO PET HER AND SHE LOOKED
UP AT ME WITH THOSE SOULFUL EYES
AND SHE JUST ROLLED
OVER ON HER BACK.
SHE JUST WANTED A BELLY RUB.

Nam says BUT IN THE BOOK, YOU DESCRIBE
THAT, YOU KNOW, THE DOG HAD LIKE
FLEAS JUMPING EVERYWHERE.

Spencer says WELL, YEAH.
YOU KNOW, AND LIKE I SAID, I
DON'T THINK IT'S NECESSARILY THE
SMARTEST MOVE I'VE EVER DONE.
BUT THEN SHE FOLLOWED ME
EVERYWHERE WHEN I HAD THIS
CONSTANT COMPANION.
AND THEN A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER,
IT WAS AT NIGHT AND THERE WAS A
STREETLIGHT AND I HEARD A NOISE
AND THE GUTTERS ARE LIKE KIND OF
CEMENT DITCHES AND I LOOKED OVER
AND I SAW THIS WHITE WRIGGLING
MASS AND I KNEW
RIGHT AWAY WHAT IT WAS.
IT WAS HER PUPPIES SO I JUST
STARTED FEEDING THEM AND YOU
KNOW, SNEAKING THEM FOOD AND
WHATNOT AND IT KIND OF UNFOLDED
FROM THERE.

Nam says AND I MEAN, YOU KIND OF JUST
STOPPED THE STORY THERE BUT YOU
EVENTUALLY BRING
EMMA AND HER PUPPIES...

Spencer says RIGHT.

NAM SAYS TO CANADA.
YOU FIND HOMES FOR
ALL THE PUPPIES.
LOOKING BACK, WHAT DO YOU THINK
ABOUT THAT GUY WHEN HE DID THAT?
LIKE... 'CAUSE YOU SPENT A LOT OF
MONEY AND TIME FOR DOGS THAT YOU
FOUND IN A DIFFERENT COUNTRY.

Spencer says RIGHT, IT WAS JUST... I DON'T
KNOW...

NAM SAYS LIKE WHY DO IT?

Spencer says IT WAS AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION.
LIKE EVERY SOUL, EVERY SPIRIT'S
GOT A MEANING AND IT WAS... SO HOW
IT UNFOLDED WAS, AT FIRST, THEY
WERE PUPPIES AND I BROUGHT THEM
TO MARNIE GUSTAVSON, WHO HAD
AN ORPHANAGE BUT SHE ALSO HAD
CONNECTIONS WITH DOGS SO SHE
WAS GOING TO GET THEM ADOPTED.
AND THEN IT WAS ABOUT A YEAR
LATER, IT WAS LIKE,
"YOU KNOW WHAT?"
SO I DECIDED, YOU KNOW, PART
OF MY MISSION, I STARTED THIS.
IT'S KIND OF MY RESPONSIBILITY.
I JUST DON'T WANT TO TAKE IT AND
PUT IT ON SOMEONE ELSE'S PLATE
SO I THOUGHT,
"YOU KNOW WHAT?
THIS IS MINE."
SO I JUST STARTED ABOUT
THE WHOLE PROCESS AND...

NAM SAYS EMMA BECAME
PART OF YOUR FAMILY.

Spencer says RIGHT.
THERE WERE SO MANY TIMES NAM,
WHERE, YOU KNOW, MY WIFE AND I
WOULD BE ON A WALK AND SAY,
"HOW ARE WE EVER GOING
TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN?"
THERE WAS ALMOST NO WAY BUT YOU
KNOW, THE UNIVERSE UNFOLDS,
YOU GET SOME WONDERFUL PEOPLE
AND I GOTTA SAY THAT
THE OWNERS, WE COULD NOT HAVE
ASKED, SCRIPTED BETTER OWNERS.
IT REALLY HAS BEEN A
PERFECT ENDING TO THAT STORY.

Nam says AND FAST FORWARD, YOU EVENTUALLY
MEET A CHIMPANZEE CALLED MANNO.
HOW DID YOU MEET MANNO?

The caption changes to "Life in a zoo."

Spencer says WELL, AGAIN, JUST CONTINUING ON
MY ADVOCACY FOR ANIMALS,
I WAS IN THE NORTHERN IRAQI CITY
OF DUHOK TO HELP
DR. SULEIMAN TAMEER.
AND WITH... THEY'VE GOT A STRAY
FERAL DOG SITUATION THERE
SO HE WANTED SOME HELP.
SO I TOOK A CHRISTMAS BREAK AND
I WENT TO HELP HIM WITH THAT.
AND HE WORKED FOR THE MORNINGS
AND IT JUST SO HAPPENED MY HOTEL
WAS A SHORT WALKING
DISTANCE FROM THE ZOO.

Pictures show a baby chimpanzee in a tiny metal cage, then free and wearing a tiny blue sweater.

Spencer continues JUST SO HAPPENED, I MET THE
ZOO OWNER BECAUSE SULEIMAN
HAD A CALL THERE A DAY OR
TWO BEFORE SO IT WAS LIKE,
"OKAY, I'M ON THE OTHER
SIDE OF THE WORLD."
SO JUST WALKED OVER TO THE ZOO
AND I THINK SOMETHING GOT LOST
IN TRANSLATION NAM, AND I
THINK THEY THOUGHT
I WAS A VETERINARIAN.

[NAM LAUGHING]

Spencer says I WALK INTO THIS, YOU KNOW,
CON... FIRST OF ALL, THEY WELCOME
ME IN AND YOU KNOW, THEY'RE ALL
HAPPY TO SEE ME AND I WALK INTO
THIS CONFECTIONARY STORE AND
THERE'S THIS BABY CHIMPANZEE
RIPPING APART BAGS
OF SUNFLOWER SEEDS.
HE GETS PLACED IN MY ARMS AND
IT'S LIKE, AT FIRST, IT'S LIKE,
"THIS IS PRETTY COOL."
TAKING SELFIES TO SHOW MY
STUDENTS AND THEN I LOOK AROUND
THE ROOM AND EVERYONE'S GONE.
IT'S LIKE,
"THIS IS REALLY COOL."
SO SPENT THE MORNING WITH
MANNO JUST TAKING HIM AROUND
AND PLAYING WITH HIM.
IT WAS JUST SUCH AN ENRICHING
EXPERIENCE AND SO PROFOUND,
LOOKING IN THOSE EYES.
THEY'RE SO HUMAN-LIKE SO THE
NEXT MORNING, I WENT BACK,
SAME THING AND THEN I JUST
STARTED GOING FOR MY MORNINGS
AND HE AND I JUST DEVELOPED
THIS BOND AND WHEREVER
HE WOULD BE IN THE ZOO,
HE'D COME BARRELLING OVER,
JUMP IN MY ARMS, AND JUST ATTACH
HIMSELF TO ME.
HE WAS ABOUT ONE YEAR OLD AT THE
TIME AND THEY'RE SO HUMAN-LIKE.
YEAH, WE JUST DEVELOPED
THIS INCREDIBLE RELATIONSHIP.

Nam says DID YOU FIND OUT HOW HE
ENDED UP IN A ZOO IN IRAQ?

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Spencer says RIGHT SO FIRST OF ALL,
SO WHEN I LEFT,
THEY HAD PUT HIM IN A BIRD CAGE.
AND HE DID NOT LIKE THE BIRD
CAGE AT ALL SO I MEAN,
IT WAS A SMALL CAGE.
SO THERE'S
THAT... WASN'T SITTING WELL.
I HAD DONE OTHER EXPERIENCES YOU
KNOW, JUST THROUGH MY TRAVELS AT
DIFFERENT CHIMPANZEE SANCTUARIES
AND I REALIZE WHAT'S ENTAILED
AND WHAT THEIR LIFE HOLDS AND
THAT DIDN'T SIT WELL AND THEN
THE ZOO OWNER RAMADAN WAS
VERY FORTHCOMING TO ME.
HE HAD... ALL THOSE
ANIMALS HAD BEEN SMUGGLED IN.
AT THE TIME, IRAQ,
WHICH... KURDISTAN IS A REGION OF
IRAQ... WAS NOT A SIGNATORY
OF CITES, THE INTERNATIONAL
GOVERNING BODY THAT KIND OF
REGULATES ANIMAL TRANSPORT.
SO HE DIDN'T BREAK ANY LAWS.
HE JUST TOLD ME,
"I PAID US 15,000 dollars
FOR MANNO.
HE CAME FROM THE CONGO."
HE STARTED GOING OVER THE ROUTES
THAT HE GOT THE ANIMALS AND SO
THE FACT THAT MANNO WAS TAKEN
FROM THE WILD KIND OF MADE THIS
AN EVEN MORE
URGENT CALLING FOR ME.
I SAID, "THIS IS NOT RIGHT."
AND THIS URGENT CALL WAS FOR YOU
TO GET HIM BACK INTO THE WILD.

SPENCER SAYS CORRECT.
WELL, AT THAT TIME, I THOUGHT
MAYBE BEST CASE, MAYBE I COULD
GET HIM AT AN ACCREDITED ZOO,
SOMEWHERE WHERE HE'S GOT,
YOU KNOW, AT LEAST SOMEWHAT
OF A NORMAL SITUATION.
AS IT UNFOLDED, I MEAN, THE
PLACE WHERE HE ENDED UP IS THE
ABSOLUTE MOST WONDERFUL BEST
PLACE THAT WE COULD HAVE EVER
HOPED FOR AND THAT'S SWEETWATERS
CHIMP SANCTUARY IN KENYA.

Nam says WE'LL TALK MORE ABOUT THAT BUT
I WANTED TO READ SOMETHING
THAT YOU WRITE IN THE BOOK.

SPENCER SAYS SURE.

Nam says IN SAVING MANNO,
YOU WRITE...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Unpredictable." The quote reads "There's no way anyone can truly tame apes. They are just too intelligent, strong, and unpredictable. Much as we giggle at entertainment chimps, the ones we see in videos riding tricycles or scooting around on skateboards -always in human clothes and grinning widely- that's a life chimps will only tolerate as juveniles. By the time they hit puberty, around seven or eight, they're impossible to handle. Deadly even."
Quoted from Spencer Sekyer, "Saving Manno." 2019.

Nam says DID THE FACT THAT
MANNO... DID THE FACT THAT
HE WOULD GROW UP TO BE
IMPOSSIBLE TO HANDLE,
AS THEY REFERRED TO HIM IN
THE ZOO, MEAN THAT THERE
WAS A TICKING CLOCK ON HOW MUCH
TIME YOU HAD TO RESCUE HIM FROM
THE ZOO IN DUHOK?

Spencer says WELL, PART OF... I MEAN, FIRST OF
ALL, I HAD NO IDEA IT WAS GOING
TO TAKE THREE YEARS.
HE WAS ABOUT ONE YEAR OLD SO IT
WAS AROUND SEVEN OR EIGHT SO WE
DID HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF TIME.
BUT MORE THAN ANYTHING, IT
WAS... I UNDERSTOOD, IN ORDER FOR
THAT TO HAPPEN, WHENEVER YOU
SEE AN ENTERTAINMENT CHIMP OR A
CHIMP AND ONE WAY OR ANOTHER,
THEY'VE BEEN RIPPED APART FROM
THEIR FAMILY.
THE OLDER CHIMPS,
YOU CAN'T MANAGE THEM.
THEY'RE TOO INTELLIGENT,
THEY'RE TOO STRONG.
WHAT HAPPENS IS THEY GO IN AND
THEY KILL THE FAMILY,
TO TAKE THE INFANT OUT.
I DON'T THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE
REALIZE THAT WHEN YOU SEE AN
ENTERTAINMENT CHIMP, THAT
THAT IS WHAT IS INVOLVED.
AND NO, I FEEL SOMETIMES I
ALMOST DO A DISSERVICE BECAUSE
PEOPLE SEE ME WITH MANNO OR
WHEN HE WAS IN THESE CUTE LITTLE
CLOTHES AND THEY'RE SO HUMAN
LIKE, IT'S LIKE EVEN FRIENDS OF
MINE, "I WANT ONE."
IT'S LIKE NO BECAUSE PEOPLE
DON'T UNDERSTAND AS THEY GET
OLDER, THEY BECOME UNMANAGEABLE.
DEADLY, TO BE FRANK.

Nam says BECAUSE THEY'RE WILD ANIMALS.

Spencer says THEY'RE WILD ANIMALS.

Nam says THERE'S STILL SOMETHING THAT I
WANT TO UNDERSTAND BECAUSE TO
TAKE SOMETHING LIKE
THIS ON, IS SO BIG.
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO DO THIS?
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO SAVE A
CHIMP WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE TO?

Spencer says WELL, I THINK THAT DOGS... SAVING
THE DOGS FROM AFGHANISTAN
CERTAINLY PAVED THE ROAD
BUT TO BE FRANK,
I NEVER SAW MANNO AS AN ANIMAL.
HE WAS MY FRIEND.
HE WAS A SENTIENT BEING WHO I
HAD A CONNECTION TO, WHO, TO BE
HONEST, I FELL IN LOVE WITH HIM
AND TO LEAVE HIM FOR THE BLEAK
FUTURE THAT I KNOW HELD FOR HIM,
JUST DIDN'T SIT RIGHT AND FOR
ME, I WOULD HAVE... ALWAYS WOULD
HAVE BEEN THAT PEBBLE IN MY SHOE
IF I WOULDN'T HAVE STEPPED
FORWARD AND TRIED EVERYTHING
THAT I COULD TO GET HIM
INTO A BETTER SITUATION.

Nam says SO YOU DECIDE THAT THIS
IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.
WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST MAKE A
NEGOTIATION WITH THE OWNER OF
THE ZOO TO BUY MANNO FROM HIM?

The caption changes to "Not a simple process."

Spencer says WELL, THAT WAS CERTAINLY MY
FIRST IS:
"LOOK,
I'LL PAY FOR HIM."
FIRST OF ALL,
HE WANTED 15,000 dollars American.
BUT THEN AS YOU GET INTO THIS,
YOU UNDERSTAND THE PEOPLE THAT
KNOW WOULD ADVISE AGAINST
IT BECAUSE WHAT HAPPENS?
YOU'RE JUST PERPETUATING THAT
TRADE SO YEAH, YOU BUY IT AND
THEN YOU'RE MAKING, IN ESSENCE,
WHAT THEY'RE DOING PROFITABLE
AND THEY GO AND GET ANOTHER ONE
SO THAT WAS OFF THE TABLE,
AS FAR AS PAYING HIM OUTRIGHT.
WE OFFERED OTHER THINGS.
HE WAS NOT INTERESTED.
RAMADAN WASN'T
REALLY INTERESTED.
HE WANTED HIS 15,000 dollar INVESTMENT
AND SO THAT WAS
A STUMBLING BLOCK.

Nam says AT THE BEGINNING STAGES OF THIS,
YOU SENT A BUNCH OF EMAILS
TO A BUNCH OF PEOPLE.
SOME RESPONDED, SOME DIDN'T.
BUT EVENTUALLY,
YOU MEET JANE GOODALL,
WHO YOU SEE IN THIS PICTURE.
HOW DID SHE BECOME INVOLVED
IN THE QUEST TO SAVE MANNO?

In a picture, Spencer poses with Jane Goodall and a young woman at a conference.

SPENCER SAYS INTEGRAL PART.
WELL, FIRST OF ALL, THROUGH ONE
OF THESE ONLINE RELATIONSHIPS,
WHICH WAS HUGE.
CHERYL BERNARD.
HER HUSBAND HAD A RELATIONSHIP
WITH BARZANI, THE KURDISH PRIME
MINISTER WHO STEPPED IN
AND SAID,
"NO, THAT CHIMP WILL BE REMOVED
FROM THAT ZOO."
THAT WAS A HUGE STEP.
BUT THEN WE HAD
NOWHERE FOR HIM TO GO.
AND WE WERE IN A HOLDING
PATTERN FOR PROBABLY TWO YEARS.
AND JANE GOODALL WAS SPEAKING IN
EDMONTON AT THE WINSPEAR THEATRE
AND MY WIFE AND I GOT TICKETS,
STOOD IN LINE LIKE EVERYBODY
ELSE TO, YOU KNOW, GET HER BOOK
SIGNED AND I HAD A PICTURE OF
MANNO ON MY PHONE AND I HAD
MY... PRACTISING IN FRONT OF A
MIRROR TO GET MY FIVE TO
TEN-SECOND FACE TIME TO MAKE
AN IMPRESSION UPON HER AND YOU
KNOW, SHE LIT UP RIGHT AWAY
AND SHE SAID,
"GO TALK TO THAT LADY,"
AND PUT ME IN TOUCH WITH
ANDRIA TEATHER.
AND AS SOON AS THE JANE GOODALL
INSTITUTE GOT INVOLVED,
THAT'S WHEN THINGS REALLY
STARTED TO ROLL AND REALLY
STARTED TO HAPPEN.
IT STILL TOOK PROBABLY OVER SIX
MONTHS AFTER THAT BUT AS SOON AS
JANE KIND OF ATTACHED HER
ENDORSEMENT TO IT,
IT REALLY OPENED DOORS.

Nam says HOW STRAIGHTFORWARD WAS THE PROCESS?
ONCE YOU HAD FOUND A PLACE
FOR HIM TO GET HIM
BACK HOME TO AFRICA.

Spencer says WELL, IT WASN'T AND THE RED TAPE
AND THE BUREAUCRACY AND TO BE
HONEST, WITHOUT JASON MIER,
WHO WORKED FOR ANIMALS LEBANON.
HOW MANY CHIMPS HAVE
I MOVED IN MY LIFE?
NONE.
SO JASON CAME IN AND HE HANDLED
THE BUREAUCRACY, THE FLIGHTS,
THE PAPERWORK.
YOU KNOW, HE BUILT THE CRATE SO
HE WAS A VERY IMPORTANT PART,
NOT ONLY OF THE WHOLE PROCESS
BEHIND THE SCENES BUT ALSO,
JUST IN HOW TO NEGOTIATE.

In a picture, Spencer poses next to a crate with several ropes around it inside a cargo plane.

Spencer continues SOMETIMES I WOULD GET ANGRY TOO,
AT THE TREATMENT OF ANIMALS
AND THE SITUATIONS.
JASON WAS ALWAYS THE CALM.
AND, "YOU KNOW, IT'S BETTER
TO WORK WITH PEOPLE
INSTEAD OF BEING ADVERSARIAL."
AND HE REALLY TAUGHT ME A LOT
AND ALSO, JUST SUCH AN IMPORTANT
PART OF THIS STORY.
WITHOUT JANE, WITHOUT HIM,
WITHOUT CHERYL BERNARD,
THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN.

Nam says MANNO REALLY DID BECOME A
PART OF YOUR FAMILY BECAUSE
EVENTUALLY, EVERYTHING IS SET
UP, HE'S ON HIS WAY BACK HOME.
BUT THEN, YOU END UP
TRAVELLING WITH HIM.
HOW... WHAT'S THE
STORY BEHIND THAT?

The caption changes to "Last leg of the journey."

Spencer says YEAH, I HAD NO IDEA,
AS A MATTER OF FACT.
SO WE'RE TRAVELLING PAST MOSUL,
WHICH, AT THE TIME,
WAS THE FIERCEST FIGHTING
SO IT WAS AT NIGHT.
THE FLIGHT LEAVING FROM
IRAQ TO KENYA WAS DELAYED.
THERE WAS AN ISSUE THAT THEY
RECEIVED NO PAYMENT
SO THAT CHIMP'S NOT
GOING ANYWHERE.
I DIDN'T EVEN HESITATE.
IT'S LIKE, "I'LL
STAY WITH HIM."
SO JASON WORKED HIS MAGIC,
TURNED AROUND AND SAID... AS A
MATTER OF FACT, EARLIER THAT
DAY, I TOLD MY WIFE, I SAID,
"OUR JOB IS DONE.
MANNO'S GOING BACK,
WE'RE GETTING HIM OUT."
BOOKED MY FLIGHT HOME AND THEN
JASON TURNED AROUND AND SAID,
"YOU'RE GOING WITH HIM."
IT'S LIKE, "ABSOLUTELY."
SO CARGO PLANE FROM IRAQ TO
DUBAI AND THEN ONWARDS TO KENYA.

NAM SAYS I FIND THAT SO INCREDIBLE.

SPENCER SAYS IT WAS INCREDIBLE...

Nam says NO, BUT I FIND IT INCREDIBLE
THAT YOU WOULD WANT TO DO THAT.
THAT YOU WERE SO INVESTED IN
THIS THAT YOU WANTED TO MAKE
SURE THAT HE ARRIVED SAFELY.

Spencer says OH, I MEAN, TO ME, IT WAS NEVER
REALLY... AND AGAIN, FOR BETTER OR
FOR WORSE, I'M PRETTY RELENTLESS
ONCE I SET MY MIND TO SOMETHING
AND IT WAS NOT
REALLY A QUESTION.

Nam says SO ONCE YOU GET TO KENYA,
THOUGH, YOU DO LOSE A LITTLE BIT
OF YOUR CALM.

[SPENCER LAUGHING]

Nam says WHAT HAPPENED?

Spencer says WELL, YEAH SO, WHEN HE LANDED
IN KENYA, YOU KNOW,
I GOT TO SEE HIM AND THERE
WAS A BIG MOB.
IT WAS KIND OF AN
INTERNATIONAL EVENT.
THERE WERE REPORTERS AND NEWS
AGENCIES FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD
SO IT WAS REALLY SOMETHING.
AND SO HE'S PLACED IN THE BACK
OF THIS TRUCK AND I DIDN'T KNOW
THIS BUT THEY HAD
CALLED QUARANTINE ON HIM.
SO... WHICH MEANS THERE'S
NO MORE HUMAN CONTACT.
SO WE ARRIVE TO THE... WE'RE IN
SEPARATE VEHICLES SO WE ARRIVED
AT OL PEJETA IN THE MIDDLE OF
THE NIGHT AND I WAITED... I WAS
GOING TO GO WITH MANNO AND IT
WAS LIKE,
"NO, YOU'RE NOT
GOING WITH MANNO."
AND IT WAS,
"THERE'S BEEN A QUARANTINE."
AND I MEAN, I'VE CERTAINLY
HANDLED SITUATIONS BETTER
IN MY LIFE.

Nam says 'CAUSE YOU WERE YELLING AT THEM.
YOU WERE CHASING THEM.

Spencer laughs and says IT WAS NOT PRETTY.
AND AGAIN, SOMETIMES I JUST
FEEL LIKE I CAN WILL ANYTHING
TO HAPPEN.
AS IF MY DRIVE IS
ENOUGH AND YOU KNOW...

NAM SAYS BUT YOU WERE REALLY
WORRIED ABOUT HIS WELL-BEING.

Spencer says ABSOLUTELY.
AND IN RETROSPECT,
NEXT MORNING,
WHEN I HAD A COOLER HEAD,
IT WAS REALLY A POSITIVE
THING THAT THEY TOOK
THIS SO SERIOUSLY,
THAT THEY WERE NOT GOING
TO COMPROMISE THE HEALTH
AND, YOU KNOW,
IN ALL HONESTY,
IT WAS MY EGO.
YOU KNOW, SO I COULD
GET MY GOOD-BYE IN.
WHAT'S BEST FOR THE ANIMAL?
AND THAT LEFT ME WITH A GOOD
SENSE OF WELL-BEING THAT HE WAS
IN GOOD HANDS, THAT THEY
WERE TAKING THIS SERIOUSLY.

Nam says WHAT CHALLENGES DID MANNO HAVE
TO EXPERIENCE ONCE HE WAS
IN THE SANCTUARY?

Spencer says WELL, FIRST OF ALL, HE HAD
BEEN... THINGS HAD CHANGED.
SO BACK IN IRAQ, HE WAS NOW PART
OF A FAMILY WHICH, AT THAT TIME,
THERE WAS NO ISSUES BUT HE
WAS, IN ESSENCE... HE WAS HUMAN.
SO WHEN WE ARRIVED TO
KENYA, THEY HAD TO PUT HIM IN
QUARANTINE FOR THREE OR FOUR
MONTHS AND SO HE HAD NO CONTACT
AND I WAS REALLY WORRIED ABOUT
HIS PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING.
AND THEN, THE WHOLE PROCESS... SO
WHEN HE WAS RELEASED FROM
QUARANTINE, OL PEJETA, WHICH
IS THE LARGER CONSERVANCY WHICH
HOUSES SWEETWATERS CONTACTED ME
AND SAID, YOU KNOW,
"DO YOU WANT TO BE
PART OF THIS?"
"ABSOLUTELY,"
SO I WENT BACK TO KENYA.
AND WAS KIND OF PART OF THE
WHOLE INTEGRATION PROCESS AND
REALIZED HOW COMPLEX THAT WAS.
JUST BECAUSE WE GOT HIM THERE,
WE WERE STILL NOT OUT OF THE
WOODS OF HIM GETTING ACCEPTED
INTO THE TROOP SO HOW IT WORKS
IS FIRST, HE'S IN A CAGE
ADJACENT TO THE FEMALES.
AND THERE'S A SURROGATE.

In a picture, Spencer stands inside a room-sized cage holding Manno in his arms.

Spencer continues THERE WAS ONE MOTHERLY
CHIMPANZEE THAT HAD ADOPTED
A FEW BUT MANNO STILL,
IN ALL LIKELIHOOD,
THOUGHT THAT HE WAS MORE HUMAN... BECAUSE HE HAD ONLY
LIVED WITH HUMANS.
AND SO HE WAS FREAKED OUT.
HE WAS NOT DOING WELL.
HE'S LIKE IN THE CORNER.
I WAS LUCKY THERE WAS A
WONDERFUL RESEARCHER FROM THE
MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE SAID,
"HE NEEDS SOMEONE TO KIND OF
SETTLE HIM DOWN... LET SPENCER
GO IN."
SO I WENT IN
AND HE DESCENDS FROM THE CEILING
AND JUMPS INTO MY ARMS AND IT
WAS... EVEN NOW, IT'S SUCH AN
EMOTIONAL MOMENT.
WHEN PEOPLE ASK, YOU KNOW,
"DOES HE REMEMBER YOU?"
THAT'S A VIDEO I'LL PLAY.
WHEN PEOPLE ASK, "WHY DID YOU DO
THAT?" THAT'S A VIDEO I'LL PLAY.
AND YEAH, SO AFTER THAT, I HAD
TO GO BACK TO CANADA AND THEY
BROUGHT IN A CHIMPANZEE CALLED
JANE AND WHEN I RECEIVED THE
VIDEO IN MY INBOX ABOUT A MONTH
LATER WHERE THEY'RE TICKLING
EACH OTHER, IT'S LIKE,
"WE'RE THERE."

Nam says HE WAS HOME.

Spencer says HE'S HOME.

In a picture, Manno hangs onto the back of an adult chimpanzee roaming in the grass.

SPENCER SAYS SO THEN THEY BRING IN
ANOTHER GIRL AND ANOTHER ONE.

NAM SAYS THAT'S JANE ON
SCREEN RIGHT NOW.

SPENCER SAYS OH, YEAH.
AND THAT'S HOW THE STORY ENDED.
IT COULD NOT HAVE ENDED BETTER.
SO THEY BRING THE FEMALES WITH
MANNO IN AN OUTSIDE ENCLOSURE
ADJACENT TO THE MALES,
SEPARATED BY AN ELECTRIC FENCE.
AND SO THEY KIND OF GET
ACCLIMATIZED TO EACH OTHER.
INTERESTING THING
HAPPENED THOUGH.
WHEN I WAS THERE THE FIRST
TIME, THE ALPHA WAS NIYONKURU.
AND IT WAS LIKE CHIMP THUG LIFE.
LIKE HE WALKS DOWN
AND IT JUST PARTED.
HE WANTS FOOD, HE TAKES IT.
BUT THE KEEPER SAID, "THAT GUY
OVER THERE IN THE CORNER,
HIS NAME IS WILLIAM AND HE'S
WHAT THEY CALL... HE'S
ACTUALLY PRESIDENT-ELECT.
HE'S ACTUALLY THE ALPHA.
HE JUST HASN'T TAKEN IT YET."
SO FAST FORWARD TO THE
INTEGRATION,
THE ALPHA IS NOW WILLIAM.
SO THEY FINALLY RELEASE MANNO
INTO THE ENCLOSURE WITH ALL HIS
GIRLS AND WILLIAM SEES MANNO AND
HE BEELINES TOWARDS HIM AND THE
GIRLS DID EXACTLY
WHAT THEY SHOULD DO.

NAM SAYS THEY INTERVENED.

Spencer says ABSOLUTELY.
THEY STOPPED THAT FROM HAPPENING
AND THAT WAS THE POINT
WHERE WE KNOW WE'RE THERE.
THAT WE HAVE MADE THIS.
MANNO KNOWS TO KEEP
HIS DISTANCE,
BUT WILLIAM LETS HIM BE
PART OF THE TROOP.

Nam says NOW THAT MANNO IS FULLY
INTEGRATED WITH HIS NEW FAMILY,
WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?

Spencer says WELL, NOW THAT THIS
IS... ESPECIALLY SINCE THE BOOK'S
COME OUT, THINGS HAVE
BEEN COMING ACROSS MY INBOX.
SO LAST SUMMER, I GOT TWO
EMAILS ON THE SAME DAY ABOUT
A CHIMPANZEE CALLED SIMON,
WHICH IS IN A WEST AFRICAN
COUNTRY CALLED GUINEA-BISSAU.
SO I'M LIKE, "OKAY."
I WAS OFF FOR MY SUMMER,
SO I SAID,
"OKAY, MAYBE I CAN
HELP THIS HAPPEN."
SO I WENT OVER.
THERE IS A WONDERFUL PORTUGUESE
WOMAN WHO'S KIND OF TAKEN THE
ROLE WITH SIMON THAT I DID WITH
MANNO AND SHE'S REALLY BEEN
THE DRIVING FORCE.
SHE'S ACTUALLY
LIVING IN GUINEA-BISSAU.
SO I WENT OVER TO
HELP GET SIMON OVER.
I FOUND THREE OTHER CHIMPANZEES
THAT ARE IN TERRIBLE SITUATIONS
AND TO BE HONEST, EVEN MUCH
WORSE THAN MANNO WAS IN
AND YOU REALIZE THAT THIS
IS A BIG PROBLEM.
THIS IS A LIFETIME OF WORK.

The caption changes to "Producer: Gregg Thurlbeck, @GreggTHurlbeck."

Nam says THIS BOOK IS WONDERFUL.
IT'S A BEAUTIFUL STORY.

SPENCER SAYS THANK YOU.

Nam says THANK YOU FOR THE WORK THAT YOU
DO AND ACTUALLY, LIKE SHOWING US
THE POWER OF ONE INDIVIDUAL AND
THE CHANGE THAT YOU CAN AFFECT.
THANK YOU SO MUCH, SPENCER.

Spencer says THANKS.

Watch: Finding Refuge: International Animal Rescue