On the 2nd of August we were invited along to the grand opening of the newest chimp house at Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary within Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Sweetwaters was established in 1993 when the Jane Goodall Institute and the Kenya Wildlife Service joined forces to open the sanctuary within Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Nanyuki, Kenya.

An initial group of three chimpanzee orphans were brought to the sanctuary from a facility in Bujumbura, Burundi in 1993. This group of chimpanzees needed to be evacuated due to the outbreak of civil war in Burundi. Another group of nine adult chimps were brought to the sanctuary in 1995 and these were followed by another group of 10 in 1996.

As chimpanzees are not native to Kenya, this sanctuary is a place to offer a safe home to those chimps that have been abused in the past and are in need of a good home. The chimps at Sweetwaters have differing backgrounds and are from many different countries but have all got one thing in common. They have each came from unimaginable circumstances and have faced horrific experiences of abuse and neglect.

For example, Poco the chimp spent the first 9 years of his life in a cage suspended above a small workshop in an attempt to attract potential customers. The cage was so small that Poco was only able to sit or stand on two legs, which is unnatural for a chimpanzee. However, since settling in at Sweetwaters, Poco has been a model resident and is now one of the more gentle chimpanzees.

Over the years the sanctuary has continued to take in more chimpanzees that have been rescued from traumatic situations and the total number of chimps now stands at 42, hence the need for a new chimp house.

The new chimp house, which has 12 sleeping quarters, means there is sufficient room for more chimpanzees as the sanctuary is compelled to accept chimps that have been abused and require special care.

Of course, chimps are not native to Kenya and so the sanctuary has been designed as a place where these once ill-treated chimps can enjoy the rest of their lives in a safe environment that has been created especially for them.

Manager of Sweetwaters Sanctuary, Martin Mulama was on site to introduce us to Chimpanzee vet Dr George Paul. We were then briefed on the new chimp house and why it would benefit the chimps.

As the ribbon was cut, it marked another achievement in the diary for the sanctuary. We were then taken through the chimp house and shown the young group of chimps that would be the first to be released through the hatches of the new house.

Being part of the group at the opening for this new chimp house was a great opportunity and to see the chimps released into the sanctuary’s 250-acre enclosure was a very overwhelming and proud moment.

The annual cost of care for just one chimpanzee is $6000 and so at the Sweetwaters sanctuary, donations in the form of chimpanzee adoptions are always gratefully received.  Adoptions help greatly towards the running of the sanctuary and help the staff at Sweetwaters continue to provide the best possible care they can give to these incredibly intelligent creatures. The fully qualified staff are on site around the clock and have devoted their lives to these chimpanzees.

Aggrey Maumo, of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officially opens the new chimp house

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