Sanctuaries in Africa Face Water Shortages

Water shortages in Africa are hitting sanctuaries hard. With over 3,000 primates in our members’ care, PASA is seeking new ways to provide water access now and in the future. 

By Ruby Vise-Thakor

March 22 is World Water Day! Many of us may take clean water for granted, but for sanctuaries across Africa, water is becoming harder and harder to access. With climate change causing droughts across many African countries, PASA member sanctuaries and their communities are facing devastating water shortages. That’s why PASA and our members are working to find solutions.

How do Water Shortages Impact Wildlife Sanctuaries?

Three out of four PASA members lack access to public water supplies. These sanctuaries must be resourceful to provide more than 3,000 animals with clean water. Some travel great distances over hard roads to obtain safe water, while others dig their own wells.

PASA has three members in Cameroon, which is in central Africa. Many of these sanctuaries are in areas impacted by chronic water shortages. Both Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue and Limbe Wildlife Centre are currently facing severe challenges finding enough water.

At Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue, their water pump recently broke, cutting the sanctuary off from clean water. Now, staff must resort to manually collecting river water using buckets. But the water is dirty and unsafe for people or chimpanzees to drink. As a temporary solution, the staff are treating the water with bleach. Then, staff must carry buckets of water to each chimpanzee enclosure. This is no easy task, especially considering the sanctuary has 80 thirsty chimps in its care.

Limbe Wildlife Centre also struggles with getting clean water for more than 200 animals in their care. Water from the nearby river is undrinkable because people upstream use it to wash their clothes and cars. The sanctuary has access to two water tanks from the public supply, but these have been very low lately. Therefore, staff must forgo their normal duties to drive around the district searching for drinking water.

When essential staff are forced to spend time looking for clean water, it causes a chain reaction of issues. Staff time that would normally be dedicated to routine maintenance can fall behind, education programs are paused, and animal care is jeopardized. It is essential that sanctuaries have reliable access to water.

A baby chimpanzee

When Sanaga-Yong’s water pump broke, the staff resorted to manually collecting river water. Photo by Sheri Speede.

PASA Works Towards Solutions to Improve Water Access

To tackle the challenges posed by water scarcity,  PASA provides emergency funding to help our members overcome critical water access challenges and is investigating more systemic ways to improve water infrastructure. 

Both Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue and Limbe Wildlife Centre are receiving assistance to help them build borehole water wells. A borehole is a narrow shaft drilled deep into the ground that pumps up groundwater. Building these boreholes will provide wildlife and humans at the sanctuaries with reliable water access now and for many years to come.

It’s important to note that water scarcity is also impacting the local communities surrounding sanctuaries. The Alliance is proud to provide hundreds of jobs for locals and contribute to community development projects. Over half of PASA members are currently providing their communities with improved access to water or plan to do this in the future.

Strengthening water access will help communities cope with the severe consequences of climate change. These effects are already being seen in Africa. As we laid out in our climate crisis report, since 1979, droughts have nearly tripled in frequency in sub-Saharan Africa. In central tropical Africa – home to significant primate populations – temperatures are rising at more than twice the global rate.

Water scarcity will likely intensify in the coming years. It is urgent that we take action now to prepare for increased droughts to keep primates and communities safe.

If you can, please donate for World Water Day. Your gift will bring clean water to wildlife sanctuaries. We must act today to fortify communities and ensure wildlife has safe spaces to recover from injury and trauma. Make your donation here: https://pasa.org/donate-for-emergency-support/.

Sanctuaries are seeking water solutions to ensure rescued chimps like Kolbi and Tamara always have clean water. Photo by Sheri Speede.