News

    African Sanctuaries Rescue Endangered Chimpanzees

    A chimpanzee being playful in Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Ol Pejeta, Kenya, March 2012. The sanctuary houses and rehabilitates 41 traumatized chimpanzees from West and Central Africa.
    A chimpanzee being playful in Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Ol Pejeta, Kenya, March 2012. The sanctuary houses and rehabilitates 41 traumatized chimpanzees from West and Central Africa.

    Multimedia

    Audio

    More than a dozen sanctuaries across Africa shelter chimpanzees rescued from poaching, war, and other traumatic situations. Major efforts are being made to protect the endangered species.



    It's a typical day at Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Two of its 41 residents are scrapping over food, while a third looks on and yelps in protest.

    Kenya is their adopted homeland, having come from traumatic situations in West and Central Africa. Many were orphaned when their parents were killed for food, were imprisoned in cages, or were part of circus or other entertainment acts. The first chimps came to Sweetwaters from Burundi in 1993, following the outbreak of civil war there.

    Rehabilitation and shelter

    Veterinarian George Paul, senior supervisor at Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, said because of the abuse, many have serious behavioral problems.

    “If they get distress, then they tend to more-or-less have self-inflicting behavior: either eating of feces, or hitting people with feces, or they even tend to have over-aggression within the populations,” explained Paul.

    The veterinarian added that Sweetwaters’ goal is to rehabilitate the traumatized animals and provide them with a stimulating, stress-reducing environment that best mimics their natural environment. For instance, he said, caregivers will scatter food around the 250-acre plot rather than put it in one place.

    “It may take the form of food. It may take the form of having complex, either ropes, either swings, either hammocks, sometimes also just trying to make the environment into a way that is not so obvious, so that they may not be able to utilize the whole environment, but they may be able to concentrate, so the day moves [faster],” said Paul.

    Growing need for protection

    Sweetwaters is one of 18 chimpanzee sanctuaries in 12 African countries caring for about 800 chimpanzees. They operate under the auspices of the U.S.-based Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, which works toward primate protection and rehabilitation.

    Executive director of the Jane Goodall Institute in South Africa, David Oosthuizen, said the number one threat against chimpanzees is the bushmeat trade, where chimps and other animals are killed for food. He said the trade is being fueled by overpopulation, and the resulting competition for food is particularly intense in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Central African Republic.

    Baby chimps clinging to their dead parents often become pets or end up in entertainment acts.

    “We have had chimps coming in to us wearing a t-shirt and pants and a Rolex watch, having been a family pet his entire life, knows not a single thing about what it means to be a chimpanzee, to live in trees, swing around and across on his feet, make a nest in the tree,” said Oosthuizen.

    He said a close second in threats to the chimpanzee is massive deforestation all across the continent, wiping out their natural habitat, something he noticed while on a recent rescue mission to Central African Republic.

    “The level of deforestation has been so apparent. I keep referring it to, ‘God has shaven the earth with a big razor,’ because there is just no more forest left. You know, what was probably 20 or 30 years ago an absolute lush prime primate habitat has now made way to massive deforestation where the forest has just given way to smaller local towns and communities,” said Oosthuizen.

    Chimpanzees looking for something to eat in Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Ol Pejeta, Kenya, March 2012. The sanctuary houses and rehabilitates 41 traumatized chimpanzees from West and Central Africa.
    Chimpanzees looking for something to eat in Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Ol Pejeta, Kenya, March 2012. The sanctuary houses and rehabilitates 41 traumatized chimpanzees from West and Central Africa.

    Shrinking natural habitat

    Chimpanzees, classified as being an endangered species, are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES. It is estimated that there are 175,000 chimps remaining on the continent, mostly in West and Central Africa, with some in East Africa. Ol Pejeta Conservancy quotes scientists as predicting chimpanzees will be extinct in 50 years if current rates of decline continue.

    Oosthuizen said that despite the CITES agreement, an increasing number of chimpanzees are being trafficked to China and other countries, where they often end up in laboratories as research experiments.

    The combination of illegal trafficking, massive deforestation, and the bushmeat trade makes it difficult for rehabilitated chimpanzees to be released back into the wild. Conservationists would rather play it safe and protect the animals from all these additional dangers.

    At Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, for instance, the animals are there for life. Paul said this is a mixed blessing.

    “We are happy to have the chimps within. They do provide us with a constant, I can say, a source of joy watching them, looking at the kind of ethological similarities between them and humans,” said Paul.

    He said the animals at his facility play an important role as “ambassadors,” educating visitors on the many dangers facing them and the importance of chimpanzee conservation.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora