Last updated on February 5, 2012
An adult male chimpanzee that had been kept indoors for almost a decade because of persistent escapes is now able to roam more freely thanks to a covered enclosure that is in place at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in Zambia.
Sandy is one of the most popular and beguiling of the 126 chimpanzees at Chimfunshi, but his ability to break out of all conventional enclosures meant he had to be confined to a handling facility since 2001 while a solution was sought.
Thanks to funding supplied by the Arcus Foundation, the Sweden Chimpanzee Trust, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, and private donors, a new enclosure that included 216 cubic meters of covered outdoor space was completed in late February. The facility also featured a spacious two-room indoor handling area.
Sandy was released into the enclosure on February 27, and quickly began swinging freely for the first time in years.
“It’s so important for a chimpanzee to feel safe and secure in his environment, and this was always our primary motivation with Sandy,” said Sheila Siddle, who co-founded Chimfunshi with her husband, David, in 1983. “The fact that he can now do it out of doors is wonderful, and I am hopeful he will adapt to his new surroundings well. He is such a special chimpanzee, and always one of my favorites.”
Two other escape artists were also placed in the enclosure with Sandy: Cleo, a 26-year old female, and Chrissy, her three-year old daughter.
Sandy arrived at Chimfunshi as an infant in 1986, after being confiscated from illegal traders. Known for his impish behavior and love of causing havoc, Sandy also grew into the largest chimpanzee at the sanctuary, eventually topping out at over 170 pounds. Despite Sandy’s size, however, he is not comfortable around most chimpanzees and foiled repeated attempts to integrate him into both new and existing social groups over the years. Siddle believes that distrust of other chimpanzees can be traced to an incident that occurred in 1990, when Sandy was attacked by a crocodile along the Kafue River in Zambia, then was severely beaten by other chimpanzees as he scrambled for help.
Although Sandy recovered from his physical wounds, he never regained his trust in other chimpanzees.
The new enclosure was designed by Chimfunshi manager Tony Rauch, and constructed near the existing 500-acre enclosures on the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust property. All of the work – including bricklaying, welding, and painting – was done by Chimfunshi staff.