Just outside Nelspruit in South-Africa is a chimp sanctuary, an Eden for abused, abandoned and abducted chimpanzees. The Jane Goodall Institute is home to 33 chimps from across central Africa.
The goal of the chimpanzee sanctuary is to rescue chimpanzees that have survived the bush meat trade, been orphaned, traded in the illegal pet market, or rescued from being traumatised for entertainment in circuses, beach resorts and night clubs. Each has its own sad story to tell and its own mental and physical scars from often years of abuse.
During our tour the guide told us about some of these abused chimps, pointing them out and telling us what they went through. Places like these give us hope in humanity, but they also point out the atrocities that humans inflict on animals.
The chimpanzees at Chimp Eden are the lucky ones, living out their lives in a risk free environment and being provided with the necessary attention to recover from the trauma they have experienced. The chimpanzees spend their days in semi-wild enclosures, and show normal social interaction and behavioural patterns as group members. They are not allowed to breed as they would not be able to release the babies into the wild. But there has been two instances where their contraceptives were not functioning properly so the sanctuary now has two new baby chimps.
There are viewpoints overlooking the forest and “foraging areas’ from which we could observe the chimpanzees. Although it was lovely seeing them up close and observing their antics, there was still a tinge of sadness to the experience. For me it is always sad to see wild animals in enclosures instead of roaming free in their natural habitats.
I know these sanctuaries are good for the animals they save and that they need a lot of funding to do so. But the prices charged at the Chimp Eden sanctuary are extremely high, making it difficult for locals to afford to visit. It feels like a lot of places in South-Africa are now focussed on foreign tourists, forgetting that there are South-Africans who would also like to explore and experience our own country at affordable prices.
Have you ever felt that they overcharge for attractions in your country?