It is estimated there are between 250 and 350 chimpanzees in need of rescue. But if we could, where would they find home? Most have long since lost any connection to their wild forest of origin or they are the next generations who never knew a forest. These rescues would come from a variety of places – derelict zoos, circuses, old medical holding facilities, at the end of a chain in some village, pets discarded by individuals who thought a baby chimp cute until it grew, caught in the illegal wildlife trafficking trade, or the orphans from bushmeat poaching. The realities are too numerous to count. The one thing they all have in common – the need for a home. Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage could be that home.
I first came to Chimfunshi as a film-maker looking to tell the story of a chimpanzee sanctuary with over 130 chimps from 19 different countries, in a country that has no native chimps, Zambia. Three years later I find myself part of that story, as I now am on the Board of Directors of Chimfunshi USA, working to raise the support and awareness needed to give those other 250 plus chimps a future they never had. Chimfunshi could be that home.
Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage is thousands of acres of deciduous tropical forest in northern Zambia’s Copperbelt region. Its four main semi-wild enclosures are hundreds of acres each – the smallest of these larger than half the metropolitan zoos in the world. For the chimps that have been rescued and brought to Chimfunshi this opportunity to live a nearly free life, swinging, leaping, playing, building nests, and foraging, is as close to the life they should have lived as can be made securely possible. After only a few days, on my original filming trip, I realized no other ape sanctuary had this opportunity – to give every chimp needing a home, a home. And didn’t these chimps deserve a second chance to be chimps? A chance to have what they originally deserved?
I joined the Chimfunshi USA Board to play a part, however small, in making a second chance a reality for all the chimpanzees sitting waiting for a future. I believe Chimfunshi could be that home.
— Gerry Ellis
Photo: courtesy ©G.Ellis/Apes Like Us/GLOBIO