Chimpanzee Orphans – The Lost Children Of Africa

The asphalt was hot.  We were in the shade of the wing of our aircraft and the cage had just arrived.  He stood there, rocking back and forth clutching a filthy piece of fabric.  He looked desperate.  The bottom of his harsh enclosure was caked in rotting food and feces.  He had not had touch of any kind in weeks and was suffering severe malnutrition.  The little guy was terrified as a crowd had gathered laughing at his human antics.  His fear was palpable.  
I watched as Itsaso and her team broke the lock.  Luis, the vet, offered him a banana laced with sedative, but he was too smart for that.  Finally, the decision was made that he would have to be darted.  The effect of the sedative worked quickly and when the team began their care for him and lifted his limp body from the enclosure and into the plane, my heart went out to him and to these heroes on the front line.  This chimp was safe!  
His Name was Coco.  He had been kept in that cage for several weeks, while waiting until funding was sourced for his rescue.  Why did he have to wait so long?  Simple, there was no money.

This was my motivating moment.  This moment stirred in me a determination to get out there, step up and help these people.  Chimpanzees are some of the most intelligent animals that we share this planet with.  They share 98% of the same DNA as humans, and are perceived by wealthy easterners as being great animals to make into pets.  That, in turn, has fed this trade in live babies.  Due to the close bond between baby chimps and their mothers, the only way that the trader can capture a baby is to kill the mother and sometimes even the entire family.  The carcasses are sold as bush meat in local meat markets, and the babies are literally sold into slavery.

Unfortunately, the owners of these animals don’t realize is that they require HUGE amounts of attention as babies, and as adults their strength and destructive nature make them downright dangerous.

“Never underestimate the effectiveness of a well funded passionate conservationist”

Lwiro and her amazing team have an incredible history rescuing chimpanzees.  The team is led by Itsaso Guinea, a soft-spoken girl hailing from Spain.  She has literally fallen in love with chimps and primate rescue. 

The “Centre De Rehabilitation Des Primates De Lwiro” (CRPL) was created in 2002, during the second war of Congo (1998-2003) and due to the increasing number of gorillas and chimpanzee orphans found around Kahuzi-biega national park.

Since then all possible efforts have been made to improve the enclosures and care of these innocent victims of poaching and pet trade.

Lwiro is the only center in Congo accepting all kind of animals in need of help, not just chimpanzees and so resources are always stretched to their maximum. 

“Without involving community there can not exist long term conservation”

To ensure that the local communities benefit, each one of the keepers and workers at Lwiro are from local families.  The chimpanzee food is bought locally on a daily basis, and conservation and educational programs run regularly through local communities and schools.

Last year, the intake of chimps and chimps in need increased dramatically.  Three chimps have already arrived in 2017.  Most notable, of this year’s intakes, a very gentle female arrived with an arm that had been hacked off several weeks prior and her raw bone was still protruding.  She came in with a young owl-faced monkey companion, to whom she was very attached and had been her only touch for weeks.  She immediately responded to human touch.  The resident vets operated and removed the bone “spike,” and though she is still great pain and has yet to smile, she has bright eyes.  We are hopeful for a fast recovery!

In Itsasos’ words: “We also received a baby that was in a terrible state.  We had been watching her and planning her “recovery” for several weeks.  When we finally had enough money to go and fetch her, her condition nearly broke our hearts.  She had been without tender touch for weeks, was in a terrible state of malnutrition, and had lost most of her hair.  Thankfully, this little one responded immediately.  It will take a while to fully recover, but we feel she has great hope!

Currently Lwiro is home to 71 chimpanzees and 91 monkeys from 11 different species.  They are desperately in need of support.

“These are the lost orphans of Africa – they deserve our support.”

“Conservation is easy – its simply global support for heroes on the front line.”


“The greatest threat to our wildlife is the thought that someone else will save it!”


“Life” costs to provide these amazing creatures the care they desperately deserve:
$8,500 per month
$50 per month – average for primates and staff of 46 keepers (all hired from the local community
$100 - Sponsor a keeper for a month
$50 - Buy chimp food for a month

Major concern at this time:
Purchase of a land cruisers – enclosed for chimp rescue and open back vehicle for the collection of food, bedding and general use around the sanctuary
$39,000 - new land cruiser pickup
$51,000 - new land cruiser hard top 

Most urgent developmental needs:
Mangabeys cage – Mangabey’s are an indigenous monkey and their numbers are growing.  They need to be moved in order to begin construction of the new quarantine area. 
$11,000 – new mangabey cage
$36,000 - quarantine area

Kitchen and food preparation area – its incredibly important to ensure high level of hygiene when preparing their food
$10,500 - new kitchen area