The Jane Goodall institute established Chimp Eden outside Nelpruit in 2006. The sanctuary is home to three groups of chimp and approximately 30 chimps. The chimpanzee is considered the closest relative to humans and is on the endangered list and may be extinct in 10-20 years if the conditions are not reversed. The sanctuary rescues chimps from other countries and most of them that we saw were from Sudan and Angola – two extremely poor countries and I’m not sure why this is a trend.
Charles was kept in a South African circus along with Jessica. When he became too large and dangerous to handle, he was locked in a small cage in a dark room. He stayed in solitary confinement for several years. During this time, he appears to have been severely physically abused. When Charles arrived, he was mentally in a very bad state and was also badly malnourished. He had plucked a lot of his fur, especially around his face and arms. Charles was a very depressed animal, who did not trust humans, when he arrived at the sanctuary in 2009. Today he is much happier and the alpha male of the group.
Jessica was kept in a South African circus along with Charles. When she became too large and dangerous to handle, she was locked in a small cage in a dark room. She stayed here for several years. During this time, she appears to have been severely physically abused. When Jessica arrived, she was in a very bad state. She had plucked a lot of her fur and was basically starving when she arrived in 2009. She has recovered from her trauma and is now the alpha female.
Suzie was kept as a local attraction at a restaurant on a beach in Luanda, Angola. Though the owners apparently did not abuse her, she was not protected from the tourists on the beach. She was often teased and given cigarettes and alcohol. Suzie arrived at the sanctuary in 2008.
What struck me the most about the chimpanzees there is that even though they are safe, well taken care of and cared for they still revert to some of their previous behaviours such as rocking or pulling out their hair. Its very sad and I can’t quite understand why someone would think they can keep a wild animal as a pet. This sanctuary is doing such great work with these chimps. When I return to New Zealand I will ‘adopt’ one of the chimpanzees for my niece and nephew and then we will get updates on our chimpanzee to see what they are up to.