For those who want to combine a trip to Africa while helping in primate conservation efforts, then volunteering at Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Orphanage in Zambia needs to be high on your list. The project will open-up your eyes to the dedication, devotion and hard work it takes to keep the chimpanzee sanctuary in operation, while immersing you fully in its day-to-day life.
Chimfunshi is one of the largest chimpanzee sanctuaries in the world and, according to Lonely Planet, is the area’s most important tourist attraction. Since 2012, we’ve partnered with Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Sanctuary and now run an award-winning volunteer project there that helps to help care for and conserve these rescued chimps.
Here are 8 reasons why you should volunteer at Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Sanctuary:
It is not just chimpanzees that benefit from our volunteers, there are other animals such as monkeys, antelope and even parrots that benefit from the sanctuary’s care and attention. Not only will you get to provide them a safe and clean environment, but you will also be tasked with enrichment making – coming up with fresh ways to keep them entertained. Beware, the primates are smarter than you think! Volunteers can also get the opportunity to spend time with the live in vet. She will provide a unique opportunity to experience just what it takes to be a vet at a chimpanzee sanctuary in Africa.
The famous primatologist and anthropologist, Jane Goodall, once called the Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Sanctuary: “The most wonderful place on earth”. She was responsible for bringing one of Chimfunshi’s most famous chimps – Milla. Milla was rescued by Jane from a bar where she was used as a tourist attraction, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. She is now seeing out her twilight years in the company of other chimpanzees and is a firm favorite with many visitors. Chimfunshi has a long and interesting history, so as a volunteer you should get to meet the founder – Sheila Siddle – and hear her stories about how it all began, while playing a game of Scrabble (or two).
Zambia has a unique culture which its people are proud to share. Spend some time talking with the local team and they will happily tell you about their way of life. At the weekends, what better way to end a busy week than having a BBQ (braai) with fellow volunteers and try the staple Zambian food, Nshima.
Deep in the Copperbelt, Chimfunshi’s location is far off the beaten track. You truly feel like you are in Africa as you bump down dirt tracks, waving to the friendly locals as you pass. The location predominantly focuses on the copper mining industry, so prepare to be amazed as you drive past the regions striking red soils, mountains of ‘slag’, or waste, and a huge open pit mine as you pass through Chingola. The end product (copper) can be found in the local curio markets in the shape of jewellery and trinkets. Nature by far provides the most spectacular backdrop, so you can spend your evenings taking in the incredible sunsets as the day melts over the Kafue River and enjoy a sundowner or canoe ride while exotic birds fly above.
Chimfunshi understands that for conservation to succeed then education of the next generation is a must. The volunteers and staff visit the local school and hold conservation workshops. Watch the children come alive as they learn about nature in fun, interactive lessons. You will quickly fall in love with the inquisitive children, who are so warm and welcoming to their visitors.
Volunteers come for the wildlife, but it is the people who remain in their hearts long after they have left. Zambians have a reputation for being friendly and you will soon see why – they are quick to smile, generous, curious and interactive. The team here are more than just staff, they will very quickly become your friends, too. You will bond as you create life-long memories working together for a common goal.
You will work hard at Chimfunshi, but it will be rewarded. You will see first-hand how the produce grown and livestock on the farm goes back to either feeding the chimps or providing income to help keep Chimfunshi For the Escape Artists – the chimpanzees separated because of their break-out abilities – enrichment is a vital part in keeping them stimulated. You will discover that everything you do here makes a tangible impact on both the wildlife and the community – you can’t ask for more than that!