Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary (Centre de Rehabilitation des Primates de Lwiro) is a primate sanctuary located in Bukavu town South east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, 4 kms away from Kahuzi Biega National Park also known as the world’s 3rd most important site for the conservation of the Eastern Chimps by IUCN.
This sanctuary was created in 2002, the last years of the second Congolese war that saw a rise in poaching of these creatures. It was created by 2 Congolese institutions that is Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) and National Center for Research in Natural Sciences (CRSN).
Lwiro Chimpanzee sanctuary currently takes care of about 83 chimpanzees, 105 monkeys of 12 different species along with other endangered species like the parrots, turtles and a porcupine. It also offers volunteering programs at a charge of 500$ per month on top of the visits to the site. It welcomes both the international and local tourists. This sanctuary is located in a politically unstable region but is still a great place to visit and is estimated to be welcoming about 2,000 to 3,000 guests in a year.
Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary offers many programs as it is part of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance. The members of this alliance strive at achieving a few things such as Emergency response, protect primates of the region, rescue and care for the rescued species, capacity building, wildlife law enforcement, training, community support, education and research.
This center also integrates victims of sexual abuse in Congo since its a common vice. These victims are given jobs in order to rehabilitate as they rehabilitate victims of poaching (the chimps). The alliance has a network of 23 members in 13 African countries which serves as a united force to protect these endangered species especially the chimpanzees.
The major challenges are wildlife trade, illegal hunting of the endangered species and destruction of the habitats. The programs at the center have reached a big audience of about 3500 people per year through the several visitors both international and local that come to the sanctuary.
This sanctuary gives orphaned chimps a second chance at life while also ensuring to protect them in the wild as well. Many chimpanzee families are killed and the young ones are left stranded and that is when Virunga National Park, Kahuzi Biega, and other rescue teams come in to take the stranded orphan chimpanzees to their safe home at the sanctuary to help them recover physically and psychologically from what they had witnessed as most of them see the action of poachers on their families. NGOs have also joined the fight to see this sanctuary as a success. Lwiro is the ideal location for Chimpanzee rehabilitation, local community awareness for conservation and outreaches.
Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary is recognized as World Heritage Site in Danger since 1997. This sanctuary has a great well equipped team of about 46 workers who take care and love the primates. There is a veterinary team, chimpanzee caregivers, monkey caregivers, cooks/ chefs, buyers and domestic helps who are also dedicated to the success of the center.
The team of 2 veterinary doctors has been the backbone of Lwiro as they work day and night to ensure the health of the primates at the center. As there are both monkeys and chimps at the center, they both have their separate team of caregivers who spend the most time with them, monitoring, loving and ensuring the chimpanzees and monkeys in Lwiro Chimpanzee sanctuary receive the best care and utmost attention.
The caregivers at Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary are all skilled and well trained personnel and some have been at the center since it was established in 2002 with the first chimpanzee. The cooks ensure a well-balanced diet for each of the animals at Lwiro and all the six meals per day that the Chimpanzees and monkeys eat unlike humans who survive on 3 meals per day.
All the animals at Lwiro Chimpanzee sanctuary have been victims of poaching and pet trade and the numbers at the center are increasing. It is however a long term goal of Lwiro Chimpanzee sanctuary to reintroduce the monkeys back to the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Visit the center to join in on the awareness and get more detailed information about the animals’ species and the center’s programs.