The Ol Pejeta Conservancy has opened the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. The house, which was sponsored by the Acres Foundation, has 12 sleeping quarters for the primates. The space can accommodate 36 chipanzees and it has space for a laboratory for welfare and veterinary care. The conservancy has employed a veterinarian, Dr George Paul, to take over the medical requirements of the chimpanzees. Kenya Wildlife Services assistant director for the mountains region Aggrey Maumo and chief conservation officer Martin Mulama officiated the opening of the facility.The sanctuary was set up in 2005 after civil war erupted in Burundi, requiring urgent relocation for the primates.
There are currently 42 chimps at the sanctuary, with the species being exotic to Kenya. Many of the primates have suffered from trauma with most of them witnessing the killing of their parents for bush-meat by the fighters. Chimpanzees are listed on Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
This demands the same urgent level of attention as other species on the appendix, elephant and rhino. Conservationists are concerned that the Convention is rarely upheld especially in range states where chimpanzees live. This results in the primates being smuggled out of Africa to be kept as pets in countries like the Middle East and China.
There are less than 200,000 chimpanzees in the wild, their numbers devastated by the bush-meat trade and the flourishing international trade in young apes. Sanctuaries in Africa no longer have space to care for the increasing number of chimpanzee orphans confiscated by wildlife authorities.
Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary has been set up in collaboration with KWS and Ol Pejeta to provide immediate sanctuary for any confiscated or orphaned chimps. The sanctuary is 250 acres large set aside for the rehabilitation and care of the chimps. It now aims to offer an incentive to law enforcement officers and agencies for the confiscation and return of illegally held chimpanzees worldwide.