Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary


Chimp at the sanctuary in Ol Pejeta

Two Digital Gypsies Rating – 2.5 Stars

The Chimpanzee Sanctuary was formed in a joint agreement between the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the Jane Goodall Institute. It was established to provide refuge to orphaned and abused chimpanzees from West and Central Africa. Sweetwaters is a member of the Pan-African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), an alliance of 18 sanctuaries in 12 African countries that is currently caring for over 800 orphaned and/or confiscated chimpanzees. It is a sanctuary and not a zoo, but it was still somewhat sad to see intelligent creatures like these inside a fence and not in the wild.

When we arrived at the sanctuary we were assigned a guide who showed us the chimps inside the electrified fence and gave us facts about the chimps during our tour. I didn’t know chimpanzees shared over 98% of our genetic material. They are also the only primates who can make and use tools. It’s sad that their habitat in Africa is being destroyed at such an alarming rate. Often whole families of chimpanzees are slaughtered to supply the illegal bushmeat trade. There are two main groups of chimps at the sanctuary separated by the Ewaso Nyiro River. I also didn’t know that a chimp will not swim across a river. They will cross a river if there is something like a fallen tree, but won’t swim across on their own. So the river is an effective barrier between the two groups.

All of the chimps at the sanctuary have names and there was a raised viewing platform next to the fence of the sanctuary where we read bios on the chimps and viewed them in the sanctuary. Chimpanzees are highly social creatures that will spend hours a day grooming each other and we were lucky enough to see a couple of them grooming each other. It’s possible to adopt a chimp for as little as $25 and you’re encouraged to do so during the tour. When the tour is over remember that you’re expected to tip the guide.