Spotlight Africa: Championing Ngamba Island’s chimpanzees

One of the chimps, Afrika, being groomed in the forest. c. IFAWAbout 16 miles off the coast of Uganda, in Lake Victoria, lies Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT). The island is home to 44 chimpanzees that are looked after by a sanctuary manager and 13 care givers.

It’s a beautiful island, covering 100 acres, of which 98 acres are completely forested giving chimps like Mawa, Afrika and Baron plenty of room to roam during the day. There’s also an indoor facility where the chimps feed, climb ropes and tires and bed down in straw-filled hammocks at night.

Although serene, the sanctuary hasn’t been immune to the financial turmoil that has affected so many animal welfare organizations around the world. Starting in 2009, management was forced to downsize staff and slash to the bare essentials food for the chimps, vet care, facilities maintenance and staff welfare.

Tough times continued to roll in 2011 and by midyear, the sanctuary was so broke that it was difficult for it to regularly meet its payroll or pay its food suppliers on time.

That’s when the International Fund for Animal Welfare stepped in with US$25,333 in emergency funds that went toward paying staffers and suppliers, among other costs. The funds greatly eased the burden but did not entirely solve the problem.

Ngamba Island sanctuary is now looking to become self sufficient. One of the ways it will do that is by more actively promoting visits to the island. In July 2011, CSWCT took over from a private tour operator and will conduct its own tours of the island.

In 2012, IFAW will continue supporting the chimp sanctuary with a donation of US$30,000. Part of that money is slotted for engines for two boats, which will be used for the tourist visitation program.

-- SN

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