After working in Africa for years, Laura Darby thought she’d experienced the heights of adventure, from braving Kenyan roads being jostled around in the back of pickup trucks and collecting crocodile blood in Uganda to being evacuated from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRCongo) to Rwanda. Had she only known what to expect when heading deep in the jungle of rural Congo, she might not have brought Adam, who had never set foot in Africa before. It took them six days, 12 hours a day by motorbike, weaving through the jungle, to reach Aketi — a small town with no running water, internet, electricity, or law. But the journey there was only just the beginning of their adventures.
Tasked with caring for five chimpanzees who were waiting for the opening of a sanctuary that would never be completed, Laura and Adam were stranded at the edge of the world and battled corrupt officials, malaria, cultural difficulty, malaria, toilet spiders, and so much more malaria. As Laura faced these hardships she also struggled to bear the weight of responsibility in caring not only for five orphaned baby chimpanzees, left to fend for themselves after the brutal murder of their groups as a part of the bushmeat trade, but also for the welfare of her malaria-prone partner.
There is no gauntlet quite like a Congolese adventure and the travails of Aketi brought with them a whole new set of life lessons. What recourse does one have when the most basic things that one expects are absent? When the people you would normally trust to help you save chimpanzees are the very people who are fighting you to destroy them? Laura had to learn quickly how far she was willing to go to save chimpanzees when the life of the man she loved was on the line….
In 2016, their story will be featured in an hour-long NBC special report with Richard Engel.