African Impact first travelled to the Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Sanctuary in northern Zambia in 2009 where we identified the opportunity to develop the volunteer experience at this magical place. The wildlife orphanage originally started as a family-run organisation in 1983 by David and Sheila Siddle, when a game ranger brought in a badly wounded infant chimp named ‘Pal’ which they raised into adulthood.
Chimfunshi is now home to over 120 chimpanzees rescued from poachers where they would be sold into the bush meat trade, or as pets; and from dilapidated zoos and circuses across the world.
As a volunteer on this project you’ll help care for wild chimpanzees through behavioural enrichment activities, infrastructure development and community farming initiatives. You’ll learn to live in the true African bush, isolated from the Western world. This project takes on only a handful of volunteers at a time but you’ll work closely with the team on the ground to make the biggest impact you can.
VOLUNTEER WORK AND IMPACTS
Chimfunshi gives refuge to over 120 chimps rescued from the bush meat trade, circuses, zoos and bars. In partnership with Chimfunshi, African Impact created this volunteer program abroad to help care for and conserve these rescued chimps. This sanctuary is one of the few places on earth that rescued chimpanzees can live out their lives in safety, and there are endless things which need doing to ensure this continued. The volunteer work you will be involved in includes:
Chimps need to be kept stimulated to encourage continued mental development. As a volunteer you will use your creativity in creating structures, toys and food-based challenges in the enclosures such as tyre swings, shaking boxes with food inside, peanut mazes; and hiding food in difficult to reach places.
Farming and food preparation
In a bid to be more self-sufficient on this project and rely less on donations for food, we started a fruit tree nursery with both indigenous and exotic fruit trees which we propagate on the project. Volunteers assist with watering, weeding, pruning and fertilizing these trees and once grown you’ll assist with harvesting and feeding the chimps. Volunteers help with farming of vegetables, which not only to sustain the chimps, but help support the local community too. Volunteers also assist the keepers with food preparations – making nshima balls from ground maize – and preparing fruit and vegetables.
Chimpanzees need exercise outside of their enclosures and volunteers participate in a ‘bush walk’ with some the chimps, guided by a trained Chimpanzee Handler. It is during these walks that you’ll be able to interact and connect with chimps in their natural surroundings.
As a volunteer you’ll get your hands dirty building thatched shelters or enclosures, mend fences and improve infrastructure at Chimfunshi, which helps both tourism and the chimpanzees themselves. You’re guaranteed to get a great workout from these types of tasks so prepare to get in shape!