“Chimpanzees are our closest relative. They share 98.7% of our DNA – isn’t that a person? Now if he/she is a person you try to conserve them, right?” Nyangoma Sarah, Visitor to Ngamba Island, Grade 6, Rweteera Primary School
This year, in collaboration with the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT) which runs the chimpanzee sanctuary on Ngamba Island in Lake Victoria, we launched an exciting new program aimed at fostering empathy towards chimpanzees in our children, The chimps spend most of their time free in the island forest, but there are times when they are confined to holding cages. This project was designed to get children thinking about the impact of boredom and inactivity on themselves and the chimps. The project was generously funded by the Columbus Zoo Conservation Program.
400 students from 7 Kasiisi Project school Wildlife Clubs heard from visiting CSWCT staff about why chimpanzees end up in sanctuaries, and the special challenges of keeping them healthy, happy and active. Each club was matched with a particular Ngamba chimpanzee and, with help from the CSWCT education staff, they learned of the benefits that enrichment articles bring to captive animals. Under CSWCT guidance they then constructed balls, tire climbers, noise makers and feeding puzzles for “their” chimp.
Children from all seven schools, accompanied by Kasiisi Project staff then visited Ngamba for 2 nights, met the chimps and watched them enjoy their new “toys”. They also spent a night at the Ugandan Wildlife Education Center and visited the airport – a highlight! These students are now preparing presentations to share what they learned with their school Wildlife Clubs.
Thanks go to CSWST and to the staff at Ngamba for providing such a wonderful experience for our children.
Special gratitude to Lilly Ajarova, Director of CSWST for enthusiastically supporting this project, to Columbus Zoo who recognized its wonderful potential, and to the Ngamba chimps, who played up beautifully, and made the project work by doing everything they were supposed to with the children’s offerings.