Afi Mountain Drill Ranch – Chimpanzees
Coffe Table Photography book out now!
999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
(My Nigeria crossing starts with the story Into Nigeria. You should begin reading there)
Drill Ranch is also home to numerous Chimpanzees that were donated over the years. Peter and Liza couldn’t say no to these highly-endangered animals that desperately also need a home. Many chimps are kept as pets after their mothers are shot for bush meat, and so they have a very hard time transitioning back to life as a wild chimp.
Enormous effort goes into slowly introducing them to the large group so they feel comfortable and are safe, before they are actually put into the massive enclosure.
Feeding time is fascinating – it’s clear some of the males are simply bullies, and one of the keepers leads them along the fence to be fed serpeately. After going with them one morning I see a lot of screeching and fighting, and even have a couple of stones thrown at me. From then on I decide to stay with the much more chilled out group for feeding, and it’s much more my style.
The chilled chimps don’t fight each other, don’t scream, and actually stand up and hold out their hands for food. Most of them then just walk a little distance away and sit down to peacefully eat. When the odd squabble does break out, 90% of the others don’t even care, they just keep being chill.
Drill Ranch has fixed the males so captive breeding can not happen, though one baby was born. Unfortunately, there really is no chance for re-introduction to the wild for these chimps who are so dependent on humans, and who would likely be killed by any wild chimp group that found them.
Spending time with the chimps is a once in a lifetime experience, and I spend many hours just sitting in the grass near the fence watching them. Often I can see they are content to just watch me, and I honestly think they get a little used to me in the few days I constantly return. The keepers explain they are extremely strong and dangerous, and contact is seriously forbidden. Around the world handlers have been killed before by violent chimps. Even watching their play fighting it’s obvious they would do me serious harm even by accident.
This is an experience I will never forget.
Still tons more photos to come.
Day eight in Nigeria.