Devastating Floods at Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya provides lifelong loving care to 39 chimpanzees who were rescued from abuse and wildlife smuggling. A 250 acre (one square kilometer) sanctuary is divided into three large sections for different chimp social groups.

Flood waters rush in, causing devastation

Between December 2015 and January 2016, El Nino rains caused the Fwaso Ngiro River, which runs through the middle of the sanctuary, to flood. The floodwaters overran the electric fence that surrounds the sanctuary and crushed 300 yards of it. Sweetwaters didn’t have enough funds to reconstruct the fence, and so they needed to restrict all the chimpanzees to one side of the sanctuary. More than half of the sanctuary’s 39 chimpanzees had to remain inside the holding facility which was only designed for overnight use. This caused overcrowding and increased aggression among the chimps. Furthermore, if any additional damage to the perimeter fence occurred, none of the chimps would have been allowed out of the nighttime facility at all because none of the enclosures would have been secured.

Tragically, in early March 2016 a male chimpanzee named Cumbo died due to poisoning from consuming pesticides in river water that had been washed down from flower farms upstream. He had been captured by a poacher in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was sold to be kept as a pet, and spent much of his life tied to a tree before he was rescued and brought to Sweetwaters. Cumbo was only 16 years old at the time of his death.

This was a crisis that demanded a rapid response. However, the costs of building electric fences are substantial. In addition to 60 fence posts, Sweetwaters needed to buy sand and cement for the foundations of the posts and high tensile wire, and pay laborers to travel to their remote location.

Who could Sweetwaters call for help? Thanks to the Emergency Support Program, funded by YOU, PASA was able to provide assistance. The PASA Emergency Support Program began in 2005 to address urgent needs of our member wildlife centers located throughout Africa.

PASA sent immediate support to help rebuild the fence line, allowing the chimpanzees to socialize, exercise, roam freely and stay protected from intruders. We also advised Sweetwaters about other organizations that provide rapid response grants and the Columbus Zoo provided funding for fence repair.

To be able to respond to future disasters, we need your support. Please donate today to support PASA’s Emergency Support Program.

PASA is dedicated to preventing more tragedies like Cumbo’s death, but we can only help as much as funding allows.

Together we can save even more lives through the PASA Emergency Support Program.

Disasters affecting primates occur at an alarming rate in Africa — severe weather, fires, collapsed buildings, disease outbreaks, and more. Emergency support is needed now more than ever!

Chimpanzees are on the endangered species list and in four African countries they have disappeared. Millions of chimpanzees once roamed Africa, but now it is estimated that only 150,000 to 250,000 are left, with that number decreasing rapidly.

Cumbo will always be remembered by those whose lives he touched. We may have lost Cumbo, but our intervention has saved the lives of countless others.

The funds that PASA and the Columbus Zoo provided to repair the fence will enable chimpanzees to have access to the larger enclosure, enable all of the chimps to roam freely in the sanctuary during the day and express natural behaviors, and provide Sweetwaters with a backup when fences are damaged in the future. Thank you for making this possible.

To be able to respond to future disasters, we need your support. Please donate today to support PASA’s Emergency Support Program.

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