Today we had the unique possibility to interview Franny who is a volunteer at the Chimpanzee Conservation Center. This amazing project is organized by WildlifeDirect and focuses on rehabilitating orphaned chimpanzees.
Our closest living relatives, sharing more than 98 percent of our genetic blueprint. These fascinating and beautiful apes are endangered and still threatened by bushmeat hunters and habitat destruction.
Fanny, thank you so much for the opportunity to talk to you today. You have been very busy traveling and of course as a volunteer working with Chimpanzees you spend often long periods in the jungle. Hence we are excited that you chose to share your experiences with our volunteers. Before we talk about the Chimpanzee Conservation Center, could you please introduce yourself.
How did you get involved with the Chimpanzee Conservation Center?
I was in my last year of university in Chicago, and had no idea what I wanted to do after graduating. I had studied cultural anthropology, but didn’t know what kind of a career I wanted to pursue. So I thought, in a dream world, what would I be doing next year?
I had always wanted to work with chimpanzees, and even though I didn’t have any background in science, I thought I might as well just see what I could find through Google. And that’s how I found the Chimpanzee Conservation Center in Western Africa.
Because the Chimpanzee Conservation Center is not primarily a research project, but is focused on rehabilitating orphaned chimpanzees, academic background isn’t as important as having volunteers who are mentally and physically capable of living in an isolated community in the jungle for six months. It also helped that I spoke French!
When you did your research on potential volunteer positions you probably found various opportunities. Why did you chose Chimpanzee Conservation Center? What makes it unique?
A lot of things! But probably the most significant is that the Chimpanzee Conservation Center is one of only two sanctuaries in the world that has successfully released chimpanzees back into the wild.
Our rehabilitation process prepares chimpanzees that were orphaned as babies to live independently in the wild again, which is pretty amazing given how psychologically complex they are. Through the love and support of the human caretakers and the other chimpanzees, with whom they form social groups, the chimps are able to recover from the trauma of losing their mothers and grow up to be independent and fully functioning adults.
That is truly impressive. Can you give us some additional information on the Eco volunteer positions which Chimpanzee Conservation Center offers on our platform that is not in the description?
Volunteers at the Chimpanzee Conservation Center play a really important role.
As I mentioned earlier, baby chimpanzees need a lot of love and attention – like human babies – in order to grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults that can survive in the wild.Volunteers provide a lot of that attention when the chimps are young, which then gives them the confidence they need to become more independent and start relying on each other for that support.
So volunteers play a vital role in the chimpanzees’ development, as well as performing all the different activities that keep the sanctuary functioning on a daily basis. At the end of 6 months, volunteers come away with the knowledge that they’ve made a real difference in the lives of the individual chimpanzees at the Chimpanzee Conservation Center and in the greater fight to protect and preserve wild chimpanzees.
Is there anything that you would like to advise future volunteers with Chimpanzee Conservation Center on?
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with chimpanzees, who are quickly disappearing from our planet. The work is hard but extremely rewarding, both because of the bonds you form with the chimpanzees and the knowledge that you’ve helped in the fight to save them in the wild. It also feels really good to disconnect from things like the internet for a few months!
Live in the moment and keep a positive attitude! Life is unpredictable when working in the jungle and with chimpanzees, so you just have to be prepared to make the best of what comes your way and have a good sense of humor. Laughing a lot is key!
About the Chimpanzee Conservation Center
The Chimpanzee Conservation Center (CCC) is a chimpanzee sanctuary located in the National Park of the Upper Niger in Guinea. The CCC has three goals:
- first, to rescue orphaned chimpanzees and give them the best possible living conditions while rehabilitating them for life in the wild;
- second, to release the rehabilitated chimpanzees;
- and third, to educate the local people about the threat of extinction of these chimpanzees in order to fight against illegal trafficking and poaching.