Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary DR Congo
Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary DR Congo
Have you ever wondered what it is like to work at a primate sanctuary in Africa? It’s rewarding and inspiring, but it can also be a dirty and exhausting experience. This blog is dedicated to getting a deeper look at a well-respected PASA member located in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: the Lwiro Primate Rehabilitation Center.
Established in 2002 by two Congolese institutions, the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) and Centre de Recherché en Sciences Naturelles (CRSN), Lwiro is dedicated to saving orphaned and injured primates. They currently care for 85 chimpanzees, 106 monkeys (13 distinct species), parrots, tortoises, porcupines, and any animal in need of a second chance. Their long-term goal is to return all animals to the wild, but only if the animals have no debilitating injuries or diseases and are deemed fit enough to survive. Any animals that would be unlikely to survive if returned to the wild will always have a home in the sanctuary.
A typical day at Lwiro starts at 6:30 am. Caretakers arrive and change into work clothes, visually check all the animals to make sure they are healthy, and they provide breakfast and medicine if needed. The outdoor habitats are cleaned, fencing is examined for good integrity and large forage of vegetables and fruits are spread. The largest enclosure houses 38 chimpanzees that eagerly and noisily wait to be let out from their evening dormitories into the 5-acre enclosure, two other enclosures nearby also house chimpanzees, including a group of adult males and a group of juveniles. Lwiro also has numerous enclosures for monkeys, aviaries for parrots, and a quarantine area for chimpanzees being treated for contagious diseases, a common risk for wild primates in this region. The nursery is the only enclosure caretakers regularly spend time in because the infant chimpanzees are still dependent enough to require extra attention. However, these infants spend most of their time playing with one another, building social skills that will help them when they are integrated into a large chimpanzee community later on.
After the animals are in their outdoor enclosures, caretakers will clean the dormitories and continue to offer produce forages throughout the day. Staff in the commissary area work hard washing, weighing, and distributing all the food needed for so many animals. Sometimes the animals receive special treats, such as peanuts or edible flowers.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of primates that still need a home at the sanctuary. To make sure they can help these animals, Lwiro is currently building two new enclosures, one for chimpanzees and one for monkeys. Limited funding has posed a challenge and had deterred these projects from being completed quickly.
Lwiro veterinarian staff is employed by the well-known Gorillas Doctors, another organization affiliated with ICCN. The vets make regular rounds to check on all the animals. They are aware of each animal’s medical issues and specific social challenges. Some routine procedures include anti-parasite medication, implants to prevent pregnancies, and prescribing vitamins necessary for the animals to grow strong. It is hoped that many of these animals will one day be returned to the wild. That is why the animals are not neutered, but contraceptive implants prevent babies from being born in the sanctuary where space is limited.
With over 3,000 visitors a year, Lwiro’s education department is a vital part of the team. Education staff gives guided tours through the sanctuary. Approximately 90% of visitors are Congolese, and tours are a great opportunity for gaining local support for conservation causes.
Despite working in the forests of the D.R.C., where access to resources can be limited, Lwiro’s dedicated staffs have formed a tight community and are united in protecting each other, as well as the many animals in their care. Spreading the word of Lwiro incredible work is one of the best ways to bring them much-needed support. Any financial donation you are able to make can also go a very long way in helping this phenomenal sanctuary continue to protect Africa’s wildlife
How to get to Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Lwiro chimpanzee sanctuary is located 30 km from the Kahuzi Biega park office and the sanctuary is accessible by a 4×4 safari car and the drive can take between 1-2 hours depending on the time of the year.
Things to do at Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary
The sanctuary is home to several primate species that can be viewed by tourists but the largest part of the sanctuary offers research programs
This is a great spot for students studying primatology as there many species of primate’s travelers can carry out research on during their study you can participate in the following programs
- Reintroduction research and implementation.
- Improved habitat management and protection.
- Great ape medicine training.
- Community participation.
- Program development and overall capacity building.
Being community-based clients can participate in a lot of activities around the sanctuary in a way of protecting the ecosystem of the area
When to visit Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary
The sanctuary is open to visitors all year round as there is no need for hectic hikes however traveling to the Democratic Republic of Congo is advisable during the dry season of June-August and December- February
Where to stay in Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Being located close to Kahuzi Biega travelers can stay in Bukavu or in the Rwandan side of Rusizi and drive to the sanctuary in the morning and the suggested lodges are Kivu emerald hotel on the Rwandan side and Orchids safari club in Bukavu.