Chimpanzees are the animal kingdom’s closest relative to humans, but unfortunately the wild population has decreased to less than 150,000, putting them on the endangered species list. Their population is continuing to diminish by about 6,000 per year because of relentless poaching, logging, habitat destruction, and human encroachment. They are hunted for meat or captured for sale to zoos, animal testing labs, circuses, and even as pets.
Many of the chimpanzees at the orphanage have been rescued from poachers or terrible situations where they have been kept as a pet in a cage or sold in local markets for bush meat. The orphanage is a safe haven for all its residents and is home to the healthiest captive chimps in the world and, with about 1,500 acres of land, it aims to provide the most natural environment possible for their chimps.
What's not Included
This project takes place at a chimpanzee orphanage founded in 1983 as a family-run orphanage. This project is located 60 kilometers northwest of Chingola, Zambia and right on the banks of the Kafue River, participants will get to experience the natural beauty of such a remote setting on a daily basis.
The orphanage has five different focuses. They include research aimed at the identification of social dynamics within the species, behavioral enrichment that works to keep the chimpanzees stimulated and thriving in their environment, farming on excess land so that the orphanage could become more self-sufficient and sustainable, infrastructure improvement, and a fruit tree nursery to propagate both indigenous and exotic fruit trees. As a volunteer, you'll be involved in any of the following initiatives:
- Chimpanzee research: Volunteers will work alongside researchers at the orphanage, studying how chimpanzee groups differ in their social dynamics. The study aims to be able to classify standard chimpanzee behavior by assessing these social dynamics using food distribution and video data collection.
- Behavioral enrichment: Volunteers will be involved in creating permanent behavioral enrichment structures (such as tire swings and shaking boxes), as well as organize temporary challenges (often food based) in order to further the behavioral enrichment of the chimps.
- Farming: The orphanange's farming land is used to grow crops such as cabbage, maize, sweet potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and groundnuts to feed the chimps and enable the orphanage to be more self-sufficient. Volunteers will work at least twice a week on the farm harvesting, sorting, weeding, fertilizing, and picking crops.
- Infrastructure improvements: The orphanage attracts many tourists and schools groups so it's important for it to be well-kept. Volunteers will help keep with any ongoing projects, and may participate in tasks such as building picnic sites and shaded viewing shelters, or putting up information boards to educate visitors.
- Fruit tree nursery: Volunteers will work in the nursery, assisting with the weeding, bagging, watering, and planting of fruit tree seedlings.
A typical day: Every day is different as animals rarely operate to our schedule, so we ask that you remain flexible and open-minded. However, a typical day begins at 7:30 am when you'll leave the project base to head out to the orphanage. You'll likely spend the morning preparing and participating in enrichment activities, assisting with food preparation, cleaning enclosures, and undertaking any research-related tasks. After a lunch break, you may spend your afternoon making enrichment toys, watering plants at the fruit tree nursery, or building structures to improve the existing tourist infrastructure. At 4:00 pm, you'll head back to the project base to enjoy dinner at 7:00 pm, followed by an evening of relaxation. You will work a 5 day week, with Sundays off. On Friday, you will get the chance to go to the nearest town (Chingola or Kitwe) to browse the local markets or buy any snacks/curios.
Please take note of the project's minimum requirements:
- Minimum age 18
- Basic English
- Good physical fitness - must be able to walk at least 4kms a day
- Immunizations (please consult your local travel clinic)
- Important Notes
- Volunteers travelling to Zambia for over 30 days will need to apply for a Temporary Employment Permit which costs approximately $250
Zambia is a fantastic country to travel in and there are some incredible National Parks to explore, like Kafue and South Luangwa. Many travellers go to Livingstone to see the world famous Victoria Falls – one of the 7 Natural Wonders of The World. There are lots of adrenaline-filled activities to do in Livingstone too – like white water rafting, bungee jumping and micro lighting to name a few. Or you could join an overland tour from Livingstone to Cape Town or Livingstone to Nairobi as a great way to end or begin your placement.