Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Rescue, rehabilitation and release


A ZPP team member confiscating a vervet monkey illegally kept as a pet © ZPP
A ZPP team member confiscating a vervet monkey illegally kept as a pet © ZPP

A network of local informers alerts the ZPP team to primates in need, allowing the local project staff to move in and rescue or confiscate the animals in collaboration with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW). Many of the primates rescued have suffered immense cruelty at the hands of humans and have terrible injuries. ZPP ensures that care is provided for every primate rescued, providing each with an initial period of intensive rehabilitation at a wildlife facility in Zambia.


ZPP Project Director Dr Cheryl Mvula fitting a yellow baboon with a radio collar © ZPP
ZPP Senior Technical Advisor Dr Cheryl Mvula fitting a yellow baboon with a radio collar © ZPP

Once rescued the primates are slowly nursed back to health and, upon passing through their 30-day quarantine period successfully, are patiently integrated over the next year into a cohesive social troop. It is a very time consuming and challenging process bringing these disparate individuals together to form a tight knit ‘family’ group, but this is essential to their survival back in the wild.

Once integrated the troop is taught how to recognise and react to predators – leopard, birds of prey and snakes – again to maximise their chance of survival upon release. Wild sourced foods are also added into their diet as to slowly wean them off the human foods they were fed as ‘pets’.

Thereafter, for those whose physical and emotional injuries allow, the rehabilitated primates are released back to the wild as part of an annual soft release programme into Kafue National Park. Some of the adults are fitted with radio collars so that the troop can be more easily tracked once released.


ZPP Project Manager Cosmas Mumba monitoring released primates © ZPP
ZPP Project Manager Cosmas Mumba monitoring released primates © ZPP

To date ZPP has released close to 500 primates in a range of suitable sites in the Kafue ecosystem. From a tented research camp deep in the bush the dedicated local field staff, led by ZPP’s inspiring Project Manager Cosmas Mumba, monitors the release troops daily with the use of radio telemetry. This monitoring phase continues for a full 6 months in order to assess the success of each troop’s re-introduction back to the wild. Thereafter the troop is monitored twice a week for the next 6 months. During the monitoring period, population and health censuses are carried out on the troop, along with focal research to record the changing behaviour of individual primates as they adapt to life back in the wild.

The majority of released primates adapt well to life back in the wild and forage and fend for themselves, living a truly free life. The monitoring team has also witnessed many wild births over the years, including our first wild-born babies Freedom and Liberty.


ZPP anti-poaching patrol confiscate ivory tusks © ZPP
ZPP anti-poaching patrol confiscate ivory tusks © ZPP

With the aid of armed ZAWA wildlife scouts, ZPP has also conducted monthly anti-poaching patrols to keep the bush safe for the released primates and all other wildlife in the area. These anti-poaching patrols have been very successful, leading to the arrest and prosecution of hundreds of poachers and the confiscation of bushmeat, ivory, guns, pangas (local knives), bikes and thousands of wire snares. A diverse range of wildlife species have returned to the once wildlife-deplete Lunga Luswishi Game Management Area as a result of the anti-poaching efforts of both ZAWA and ZPP, with elephants, sable, roan antelope, sitatunga and lions (with cubs) now regularly sighted.

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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