Viewed from across social media, it would be easy to think chimp sanctuaries are a bunch of super cute rescued baby chimps, all perfectly sized to be cuddled and bottle fed, but the reality is far different. At Chimfunshi there is a wide mix of young and old, and even much older.

Old and young chimps in Chimfunshi social group

Chimfunshi is unique in the mix of ages and social relationships that share large forested enclosures. Critical to the health of these groups are the oldest chimps.

At Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage a growing concern is the increasing number of chimpanzees aging into their 30s, 40s, 50s. If you visit Chimfunshi you would see large groups of chimps sharing their space – but dominated by older chimpanzees. If many more chimps were to be rescued around the world it’s likely they would be 20 or 30 years, or older. While baby orphans require 24 hour care, older chimps require growing care over years. Like older people, as the years go by overall healthcare becomes critical. Chimfunshi’s vet, Dr Thalita Calvi, spend a significant percentage of her time looking after older chimps; chimps with colds, infections, not getting adequate nutrition (partly a result of living out in large semi-wild enclosures), even touches of arthritis, and who know about slipping mental capacity.

As a film-maker, telling the story of aging chimps at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage is not only fascinating, but incredibly critical. Chimpanzees can live 40-60 years, comparable to humans in most regions of the world, so anticipating the needs of their long-term care is an important part of Chimfunshi strategic planning for the future. Since young rescued chimps just arriving at Chimfunshi will out live their keeper staff, they may indeed be one day asking, ‘who will take care of me when I’m old?’

— Gerry Ellis

Photo: courtesy ©G.Ellis/Apes Like Us/GLOBIO


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