Chimp sanctuaries save evidence of human origin
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2003:
CHINGOLA, Zambia–Humane education and
conservation through rescue are the commonly
cited goals of great ape sanctuaries in Africa,
but another could be added: genetic research is
increasingly demonstrating that in saving the
scattered remnants of isolated and soon to be
extinct wild chimpanzee, bonobo, and gorilla
bands, the sanctuaries are becoming
conservatories of the history of human evolution.
David C. Page of the Whitehead Institute
in Cam-bridge, Massachusetts, in the June 19,
2003 edition of Nature erased yet another of the
presumed distinctions between humans and chimps.
Summarized New York Times science writer Nicholas
Wade, “The genomes of humans and chimpanzees are
98.5% identical, when each of their three
billion DNA units are compared. But what of men
and women, who have different chromosomes?
Men and women differ by one to two percent of
their genomes, Dr. Page said, which is the same
as the difference between a male human and a male
chimpanzee or between a woman and a female
Said Page, “We recite the mantra that
[men and women] are 99% identical and take
political comfort in it. Reality is that the
genetic difference between males and females
absolutely dwarfs all other differences in the
African sanctuarians, however, have so
far been too busy saving orphaned chimps to think
about what this means.
“The recent arrivals of two infant
chimpanzees,” one from Qatar and one from the
Congo, “bring to 100 the number who have reached
the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage,” Chimfunshi
U.S. trustee and Great Ape Project director Doug
Cress announced on July 12.
Commented Chimfunshi founder Sheila
Siddle, “They say 10 chimpanzees are killed for
every one kept in captivity. If that’s the case,
just imagine what a loss to the wild populations
our 100 chimps must represent.”
Siddle, 71, came to Zambia from England in 1947
with a family convoy of five converted military
vehicles. She and her husband David bought the
former Chimfunshi fishing camp near Chingola in
1972. They initially raised chickens, then
expanded into cattle ranching. A game ranger
brought them their first orphaned chimp, rescued
from the pet trade, in 1983. Five more chimps
followed within a year.
Chimfunshi gradually became a fulltime
sanctuary, significantly expanding in April 2000
when 40 chimps were relocated from the original
site to 13,000 acres of former grazing land along
the Kafue River, which had been allowed to
revert to semi-natural habitat.
Chimfunshi is among the 20 African
primate rescue facilities included in the Pan
African Sanctuary Alliance.
“PASA was founded in 2000 in Uganda at a
workshop convened by the Jane Goodall Institute
and the Conservation & Breeding Specialist Group
(CBSG),” Doug Cress said, wearing his third hat
as PASA secretary.
Founding PASA members, besides
Chimfunshi, included Drill Ranch in Nigeria and
the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Trust in Gambia.
“Drill Ranch, run by Liza Gadsby of
Portland and the Pandrillus Foundation, is
enjoying fabulous success with its breeding
program to stabilize the mandrill populations,”
Cress said. “The Chimpanzee Rehabilitation
Trust was actually the first sanctuary ever
created in Africa, founded by Eddie Brewer in
1969 and run ever since by his daughter Stella
Brewer,” with her husband David Mardsen. They
presently have 66 chimps.
When PASA formed, Cress said, “there
was no intention to establish an ongoing
association–just to share some ideas–but it
quickly became apparent that the sanctuaries
could benefit from a closer bond. The major
protagonists were Norm Rosen of CBSG, Richard
Wrangham of Harvard University, the late Ulie
Seil of CBSG, and Debby Cox of the Chimpanzee
Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservation Trust of
Uganda. Major backing and support also came from
International Fund for Animal Welfare, the
Cleveland Zoo, the Columbus Zoo, and the
Starting with 16 members, PASA
“considered applications from six new members in
2003,” Cress said.
Sanctuaries in the U.S. and Britain are
often founded and funded by opponents of animal
exhibition and captive breeding, and are
advanced as alternatives to zoos. There is
similar friction in parts of Africa. The Kenya
Wildlife Service stipulates that the KWS Wildlife
Orphanage at Nairobi National Park, supported by
paid admission and souvenir sales, is not a zoo
and is not involved in breeding for exhibition.
In South Africa sanctuarians find
themselves in frequent conflict with growing
numbers of for-profit menageries and government
agencies which do not recognize the difference
between operating for profit and the
philanthropic orientation of a true sanctuary.
“Under apartheid, animal welfare was a
dirty word,” Kalahari Raptor Centre co-director
Chris Mercer told ANIMAL PEOPLE in October 2002.
KRC and the Enkosini Wildlife Sanctuary, founded
to keep lions, have been fighting in court for
years just to exist. Primate sanctuaries,
observes Mercer, have been no more welcome.
“Rita Miljo, 71, founder of the Centre
for Animal Rehabilitation and Education in the
Northern Province (now sponsored by IFAW),
recalls occasions when she had to stand in front
of her orphaned baboons, rifle in hand, to
protect them from being shot” by authorities who
regarded the baboons as future threats to crops,
Similar hostility has afflicted the
Animal Protection and Environmental Sanctuary,
founded in 1992 by Dawn Magowan and Rodney
Pendleton at Bazley, KwaZulu-Natal. Magowan was
arrested in March 2002 and six baby vervets were
confiscated after neighbors claimed that the
caged vervets were attracting wild vervets who
vandalized homes and cars. APES has not yet
applied to join PAS, Cress said.
As in the U.S., where the term
“sanctuary” and even nonprofit status are often
usurped by roadside zoos, “Most ‘sanctuaries’ in
South Africa are a hybrid between a sanctuary and
a private zoo,” Cress told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“Often they take in sick or injured vervets and
baboons, but pad their collections with hoofed
stock, a tired lion or two, and maybe even a
chimp to draw tourists. These organizations
would not qualify for PASA membership,” Cress
explained, “since the first rule of PASA is that
no sanctuary will actively seek to acquire
animals; they can only offer them permanent
Because PASA members are trying to
distinguish themselves from zoos, the membership
application of a facility called Monkeyland at
Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, was recently
“Director Tony Blignaut has become
uncomfortably close to the zoo crowd and has been
actively seeking primates, including great
apes,” Cress explained. “That said,” he
added, “most PASA sanctuaries would kill to have
the facilities that Blignaut does, including
beautiful meeting rooms, an education center,
and gift shop. Locals joke that Monkeyland is so
nice that the wild baboons try to break in–which
On the other hand, the late British
gambler-turned-for-profit zoo owner John Aspinall
funded another of the first primate sanctuaries
in Africa, the Projet Protection des Gorilles
orphanage, also a PASA charter member. The
Projet Protection des Gorilles was begun in 1986
by Mark and Helen Attwater at the Brazzaville Zoo
in the Republic of Congo.
The project was imperiled, John Watkin
recounted in the December 2002 edition of Swara,
the journal of the East African Wildlife Society,
when civil war hit Brazzaville in 1997. Working
despite a broken leg, then-orphanage director
Amos Courage evacuated the resident gorillas to
the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Sanctuary, also in
the Republic of Congo, founded by the Jane
Goodall Institute in 1992.
The youngest gorillas were later sent to
another Aspinall-funded Congo site, the Lesio
Louna Reserve, likewise founded in 1992.
Other well-known PASA members include the Limbe
Wildlife Center in Cameroon, sponsored by the
International Primate Protection League, and the
Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon,
started in 1999 by U.S. veterinarian Sheri
Speede, funded by In Defense of Animals.
ANIMAL PEOPLE in March 2002 received an
especially favorable report about the work at
Sanaga-Yong from Claudine Erlandson of Shoreline,
Washington, who spent six months as a volunteer
there in 2001.
Goodall growing pains
PASA members associated with the Jane
Goodall Institute, besides Tchimpounga, include
the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in the
Laikipia district of Kenya, founded in 1993;
the Kitwe Point Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Tanzania,
founded in 1995; and the Ngamba Island
Chimpanzee Sanctuary, of Uganda, founded in
Occupying 100 acres surrounded by Lake
Victoria, Ngamba Island is also partially
sponsored by the Born Free Foundation, IFAW,
Uganda Wildlife Association, Uganda Wildlife
Education Centre, and Zoological Parks Board of
New South Wales. At latest report Ngamba had 33
chimps, three more than the original planned
capacity, and was attracting about 250 visitors
The Jane Goodall Institute is reportedly
developing additional facilities in Uganda and at
Broadlands Farm, near Cape Town, South Africa,
to cope with the fast-increasing number of chimps
who are being displaced by rainforest logging and
orphaned by poaching and smuggling.
Along the way, the Goodall Institute has
run into recent trouble in both Tanzania and
Uganda–and has for six months not responded to
ANIMAL PEOPLE inquiries about it. An account by
Elizabeth Royte in the November 2002 edition of
Outside magazine and a more detailed version by
Gombe Stream National Park director of chimp
research Shadrack Kamenya in the December 2002
issue of Pan Africa News agree that the series of
incidents started on May 15, 2002. Frodo, 26,
identified by Royte as “the chimp who has starred
in Goodall’s nature documentaries since he was
born in Gombe,” accosted the wife and
16-year-old niece of Gombe park attendant Moshi
Sadique. The niece was carrying Sadique’s
14-month-old daughter on her back. Frodo tore
the child away and “slammed her into a tree over
and over. By the time guards arrived,” Royte
related, “the chimp had disemboweled the toddler
and had begun to consume her brain.”
Similar incidents reportedly occurred at
Gombe in 1984, 1987, and in the 1950s.
Frodo had previously seriously injured Jane
Goodall herself, who admitted he was “a bully.”
Wrote Royte, “He has a taste for fresh meat,
which he exchanges for sex. During one four-year
period he single-handedly eliminated 10% of
Gombe’s colobus monkeys.”
On July 28, 2002 the Goodall Institute
flew three chimps from Tanzania to Uganda for
integration into the Ngamba Island population.
Alleging that all three were suffering from
tuberculosis, the Uganda Wildlife Authority
recommended that they should be killed on
arrival. One named Zoro did have TB, and was
killed. Two named Dosi and Kipala remained in
quarantine until on February 3, 2003 they
escaped from quarantine at the Entebbe Airport.
Dosi, inaccurately rumored to actually be the
infamous Frodo, “bit off the fingers and toes of
his keeper,” according to Gerald Tenywa of The
New Vision newspaper in Kampala.
Dosi and Kipali remained at large until
February 15, when Uganda Wildlife Authority
rangers, police, and private security guards
cornered and shot them both.
Frodo fell seriously ill in December
2002, lost his alpha role in January 2003, and
as of March 2003 seemed to have settled into a
subordinate position–at least temporarily.
War is hell
Sanctuary work anywhere is difficult,
but the instability of much of Africa compounds
the usual stress of fundraising, dealing with
anxious neighbors, educating often misinformed
citizens and public officials, and handling
animals who typically arrive with physical and
Two attempts by Friends of Animals to
start African sanctuaries for ex-laboratory
chimps have come to grief. The first FoA chimp
sanctuary, in Liberia, was destroyed in 1991 by
the outbreak of civil war. The FoA staff
escaped; the chimps are believed to have been
eaten by combatants.
The fighting engulfed the nearby Liberian
Institute of Biomedical Research two years later.
With the help of the New York Blood Center, the
institute had retired about 90 of its 165 chimps
to island refuges. Manager Brian Garnham, of
Britain, asked the invading soldiers to spare
the 120 chimps who were still alive. He was shot
in front of his wife and four-year-old adopted
daughter, who was already an orphan of the war.
Ten years later FoA completed a 162-acre
sanctuary site on Konklobi Island in Ghana, but
was never able to get permission to send chimps
to it because of concern raised by political
opponents that the chimps might introduce
diseases transmissible to wildlife and human
neighbors. FoA suspended efforts to work at
Konklobi in 1992.
Out of the regional strife, however,
emerged another PASA charter member, the
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, near Freetown,
Sri Lankan immigrants Bela and Sharmila
Amarasekaran began rescuing orphaned chimps in
1988. The Goodall Institute arranged for their
first seven chimps to be transferred to
Chimfunshi, but constantly moving chimps half
the length of Africa was costly and impractical.
In 1994 the Amarasekarans were granted land to
While many African primate sanctuaries
meet community resistance, neighbors helped to
keep the chimps safe and fed after Tacugama was
twice overrun by troops and looted. Five chimps
died from medical deprivation in 1997, and three
more in 1999, but none were deliberately killed.
By mid-2002 the Tacugama chimp population had
increased to 54.
The real victory for the Amarasekarans, however,
was not merely that the sanctuary had survived,
but that it had survived because it was viewed as
an authentically valuable community institution.