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“At 23:56 on 23rd October 1963, Zambians rose in reverence of the Union Jack, the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom, for the last time as it lowered, signifying the end of British rule in Zambia.”

― Precious Mwansa-Chisa

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Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage is one of the oldest and largest chimpanzee sanctuaries in the world and gives rescued and orphaned chimpanzees a safe species-typical home.

In the early 1980s, David and Sheila Siddle operated a cattle farm in the Copperbelt Province, close to the Kafue River. They wanted some time for themselves after the children had left the house. That lasted until a game ranger rang their doorbell on 18 October 1983 with a critically injured baby chimpanzee in his arms. The game ranger and his colleagues had rescued the little chimpanzee from poachers, with no hope of its survival. However, David and Sheila took in the small great ape, nursed him to health and named him Pal. Since they didn’t know much about chimpanzees, they treated him like a human baby: they gave him warmth, protection and food. Against all odds, Pal survived and to this day, Pal lives at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in one of the large forested, protected enclosures, with a community group of 25 other chimpanzees.


The rescue of Pal started the incredible development that made Chimfunshi into one of the largest chimpanzee sanctuaries in the world. Word spread quickly that Sheila and David had successfully rescued a chimpanzee, and that they were willing to continue accepting and caring for chimpanzees in need. More and more rescued chimpanzees came to Chimfunshi. The chimpanzees were confiscated from circuses and dilapidated zoos, rescued from poachers from the illegal bushmeat trade, found at local street markets where they were to be sold, or discovered by customs when being smuggled out of the country. The chimpanzees came from all over the world; Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. Most of the rescued chimpanzees have been abused, socially isolated from other chimpanzees and with no cognitive stimulation, traumatized, and needed intensive care.

It took many years until Chimfunshi caught the attention of international animal welfare organisations. Soon they were recognised by experts like Jane Goodall, who became an important source of knowledge for the Siddle’s. Jane Goodall even rescued a chimpanzee named Milla from being exploited as a tourist attraction in a lodge bar in Tanzania in 1990 and brought her to Chimfunshi, to live out her life with other chimpanzees. Milla is Chimfunshi’s oldest resident at 47 years of age.


Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage is a sanctuary for 132 chimpanzees that live in large, forested enclosures measuring between 19 and 77 hectares each. Each of these enclosures possesses a building with 6 to 8 spacious cages, which are used exclusively for feeding, observing chimpanzee health, and providing medical care when necessary. This ensures that each chimpanzee, even the smallest, is provided with enough food. The large enclosures are guarded at all times, in order to be able to react to every irregularity immediately.

In the past 18 months Chimfunshi has received 11 rescued chimpanzees from South Sudan and Angola. On arrival new rescues are quarantined and vigorous health checks are undertaken over several months to ensure they are disease free before they are carefully integrated into one of the existing family groups.

Chimfunshi is located in a forest habitat similar to the wild habitat of chimpanzees, but chimpanzees are not indigenous to Zambia, therefore they cannot release the chimpanzees into the wild. Chimfunshi’s mission is to provide the rescued chimpanzees the opportunity to live primate-typical lives and ensure they do it as wild and free as possible. Besides from rescued chimpanzees, Chimfunshi rescues, rehabilitates, releases back to the wild other local wildlife such as native birds (owls, kites), baboons, and vervet monkeys.


The name “Chimfunshi” means “place that holds water” in Bemba,and not without reason. The nearby Kafue River floods large parts of the grasslands and bush area every year during the rainy season.

The Chimfunshi property encompasses more than 5,000 hectares. In addition to providing the chimpanzees with a forested, protected home, part of this land is dedicated to 4 villages where the Chimfunshi staff and their family live, with access to the Twampane Community School, and the Chimfunshi Community Health Clinic. The opening of the school has made a huge impact in the community, and currently teaches from Grade 1 to Grade 9 with 8 teachers. The Community Health Clinic has recently opened and provides basic health care free of cost to the community, as well as, people from the surrounding areas.

Chimfunshi is an important local employer that offers residents work as animal keepers, technical staff, and service staff. Chimfunshi also contributes to the local economy by purchasing food for the chimpanzees from local farmers.

Chimfunshi operates entirely on donations, sponsorship and tourism, without the financial support provided by their valued donors, researchers, volunteers, and visitors, the sanctuary cannot continue to provide their crucial work in conservation and animal welfare.

Chimfunshi is located 65kms from Chingola, off the Solwezi Road, you will see a large Chimfunshi sign on the right, leaving the main road onto the untarred road, follow this for 15kms to the sanctuary office. Chimfunshi is open to day visitors and overnight guests all year round. For more information on how you can visit Chimfunshi contact [email protected] or telephone: +260975519881, or check out their website

Follow Chimfunshi’s important conservation and animal welfare on Facebook and Instagram @chimfunshiwildlifeophanage

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