Last year, our long-term colleagues at Limbe Wildlife Centre in Cameroon celebrated three decades of wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and release. Born Free’s Dr Andrea Donaldson looks back at what this world-class facility has achieved.
Since 1993, the mission of Limbe Wildlife Centre (LWC) has been to protect Cameroonian wildlife by rescuing and rehabilitating victims of poaching, inspiring people to connect with nature and improving local communities’ wellbeing. Born Free has supported this highly respected organisation since 2004, not least the sanctuary’s life-changing work to rescue chimpanzees, orphaned by the illegal ‘bushmeat’ and pet trades, and provide expert care.
The centre has a fascinating background. During the early 1990’s, the Co-Founders of the Pandrillus Foundation*, Peter Jenkins and Liza Gadsby, conducted a survey of drills (a short-tailed monkey related to baboons and mandrills) across western Cameroon. Their fieldwork took them to remote wild areas and villages in several provinces where they frequently saw wild born chimpanzees kept as pets in terrible conditions. They knew something had to be done.
Forming a unique partnership between the Pandrillus Foundation and the government of Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, it was agreed that converting the old Victoria Zoo in the seaside town of Limbe, in western Cameroon, would be the ideal location for a wildlife sanctuary. Limbe Wildlife Centre was born!
At the time, Victoria Zoo housed eleven primates, who were all nailed into tiny wire cages, as well as a few reptiles, duikers (small antelopes), birds and small carnivores. Many other enclosures were empty, abandoned, in need of repair but ultimately useable. Despite its limitations, the old zoo had beautiful grounds, water and electricity supplies and plenty of potential. The team had to put in many long hours converting the facility into a sanctuary, implementing non-breeding policies, ensuring each animal was cared for in according to their species needs, providing privacy and comfortable ‘off view’ areas for the animals, then educating staff and public alike about the difference between a zoo and a genuine sanctuary.
Today, Limbe Wildlife Centre is a world-renowned animal welfare and conservation organisation, providing care to any wild animal in need of a second chance. They are also a founding member of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance – a coalition of sanctuaries and wildlife centres devoted to the rescue of Africa’s apes and monkeys. Born Free has helped fund LWC’s work – including the care of rescued gorillas and grey parrot rehabilitation – for 20 years, not least via the support of our animal adoption programme.
Since 2014, until last year, our supporters have been able to adopt Chinoise, a young chimpanzee rescued from a Chinese restaurant in Douala, where she was kept as a pet. Chinoise’s fur is a ginger-brown colour, which is quite unusual amongst chimpanzees, and certainly makes her stand out amongst the group, who mostly have the more usual black fur coats. She has wonderful chimpanzee-freckles all over her face and ears. She is beautiful and it is a pleasure to see her flourish, thanks to the support provided by Limbe Wildlife Centre and our adopters!
“We are all incredibly proud of LWC’s accomplishments over the last 30 years,” explains Jerry Aylmer, Project Manager, Pandrillus, Limbe Wildlife Centre. “This includes the rescue and release of an estimated 4,000 African grey parrots, educating tens of thousands of school children and community members on the importance of conservation, and providing the highest standard of care to the animals under our care – rescued from the illegal bushmeat and pet trades. At present, this includes 14 western lowland gorillas, 41 chimpanzees, 67 drills, and various other species of primates, mammals, reptiles, and birds.”
Congratulations on three decades of rescuing wild animals in need, Limbe Wildlife Centre! It is an honour to join your celebrations and to support your remarkable, trail-blazing work.
*Founded by Liza Gadsby & Peter Jenkins in 1988, Pandrillus works to protect drill in Nigeria and Cameroon.