Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Face to Face

Laura Gosset talks to Lily Ajarova, Executive Director of the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Uganda (supported by Born Free since 1998).

What started your love of wildlife?
My family and primary school exposed me, when I was very young, to wildlife beauty and importance by making me visit National Parks. Hence, I value the influence of nature on my children and wildlife clubs in schools because it increases the love for wildlife.

How did you first get involved with Ngamba Island and The Chimpanzee Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT)?
My initial involvement with Ngamba Island was by being a visitor at the sanctuary.  My family always made a visit once a year to Ngamba and we all picked on a chimp as our favourite based on the stories we were told about them. This exposed me to the knowledge of what CSWCT was doing overall.

What motivates you day to day?
My daily motivation is the belief that I can make a difference in life by being who I am and doing what I love and I am passionate about.

Tell us a little about Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary.  
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is a haven for rescued orphaned chimpanzees.  Ngamba Island is providing a second chance for the chimpanzees living there who would otherwise be in cages or dead. Ngamba Island is acting as an educational tool for the public who visit it, they get to understand and appreciate chimpanzees and environmental conservation.

Ngamba Island environmental management is a model to different groups of people including school groups and local communities amongst others. The work of Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary has expanded to protecting the habitats of the chimpanzees in the wild, has created more awareness about environmental issues and is supporting the livelihood of the local communities who live adjacent to the chimpanzee habitats in Uganda.

How is Born Free involved?  Born Free Foundation was involved in the establishment of Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in 1998 and until now has continued to support the maintenance of the chimpanzees at Ngamba by providing funding for their feeding budget.  More than this, Born Free has since continued to provide funding for our environmental education and school programme, which has seen Myende Community Primary School built in one of the fishing villages neighbouring Ngamba where about 200 children have found the opportunity to get a formal education that they would never have had otherwise.

Born Free has continuously provided school supplies including uniforms and library books, amongst others. The pioneer children who studied at Myende are now in High School, and we are so excited to see how they will be successful career people thanks to Myende Community Primary School. Furthermore, Born Free supported another fishing village with their school programme, and constructed a teachers’ accommodation building with toilets and a library with books too. This support has a direct impact on the welfare the chimpanzees and existence of Ngamba island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, because having communities who appreciate the sanctuary work because they benefit from it provides security to the operations at Ngamba because we are living in harmony with the neighbours.

Further, the lifestyle of the community directly impact on Lake Victoria upon which Ngamba Island also depends. Providing them with environmental education and using Ngamba operations as a model helps to save the future of Lake Victoria and also the chimpanzees at Ngamba.

Sara at Ngamba

Why is the sanctuary important?
The sanctuary is necessary to provide a home to the orphaned rescued chimpanzees that would otherwise be left to die.

The sanctuary also helps the government to enforce the law against the illegal possession of chimpanzees. Without the sanctuary facility the law enforcement is not done because even if the animals are rescued there would be no place to put them.

It has worked with the chimpanzees in Uganda.  After Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary was established then it became easy for the enforcement of the law in regards to chimpanzees. Ngamba currently has 47 rescued chimpanzees in its care, without the sanctuary who knows where the 47 chimps would be now? Most of them, I believe would be dead. The sanctuary provides an opportunity for the rescued chimps to have another life and they speak on behalf of the others.

How has is developed since you joined the team?
When I joined the management of Ngamba, there were 32 chimpanzees and now they are 47. The facilities have since been improved for the better for both the chimps and the staff. This has enabled all the chimps to be integrated and formed one community, and they recognise the hierarchy in the community, which shows that they are living as close to the life of the wild chimps.

We have created many more partnerships with both national and international individuals and organisations. More people know about chimpanzees due to the awareness campaigns that we have been organising. Ngamba has won a number of national and international accolades.

Finally tell us about Born Free’s adopted individuals over the years.
The adopted individuals by Born Free have been Nkumwa, Afrika, Bwambale and Sara. Each one of them came in very sorry state; poor health and traumatized. The life at Ngamba Island has made it possible for them to be rehabilitated to good health, overcome the trauma and have a community they belong to that provides a normal chimpanzee life for each of them.  

Nkumwa, rescued in 1997, is today loved by all the chimpanzees and moves between the adult and juvenile groups.  She is very good with the young chimps and protects them from bullying. 

Bwambale, rescued in 2002, has grown into a very healthy young chimp that is beginning to demonstrate leadership interest. He is calm, non-aggressive and feels confident now to influence the social dynamics in the group.

Afrika, rescued in 2008, is a reserved character, healthy, with not much influence on others but from time to time she initiates conditions that creates fights between the others and she seats back and watches what goes on.

Sara, rescued in 2011, knows that she is loved by many in the group and this is seen in her character, she is playful, enjoys the company of all the others,  determined and she stands up for herself.  

These chimps are all healthy and portraying the characters they have due to the continuous support from Born Free Foundation without which, the staff and management of Ngamba would not be in position to provide what is provided to them and make them feel and live like chimpanzees.

We are so grateful to Born Free Foundation, and there supporters, for making it possible for us to do what we do, and for providing a chance for the chimpanzees in our care at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary and making a difference in the lives of the the disadvantaged Ugandan communities living on the islands on Lake Victoria. We feel indebted to all who provide the support to Born Free. We promise to continue to doing our best, what we are passionate about for the benefits of the individual and the global community. Blessings to all!

You can help

Ngamba urgently needs funds to continue its vital work.  Please send us your donations, or adopt Sara the orphan chimp (£2.50/m incl Gift Pack). 

Support Ngamba by adopting Sara here

Lilly nursing Rambo, a rescued chimp with a fractured arm
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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