We knew we were on the right track with this sign:
When we finally arrived at the main compound and office Susan greeted us. We followed her into the education building and paid our fees, ZMK 150, and she issued us a written receipt. This was a compound for workers, with a lot of out buildings, and two huge tents covered with thatched roof shelters. For a fee visitors can stay at the sanctuary and volunteer. Other than Sheila, the remaining employees we saw were native to this region.
Leaving with this sign in our minds, we headed back to where the family group enclosures were.
The "main" road we missed turned out to be not as well traveled. More by instinct than by any signs (lacking) we did find the family enclosures. There were several signs warning visitors to be aware of chimps throwing rocks. In fact, at one point the road offered two choices.
We took the left branch as it had the signage. On the other side, the two roads rejoined at the first main gate. If you notice the denser areas of foliage, those are some of the chimp nests high in the trees.
A guard met us at the gate, verified we had paid admission, then let us in. We parked and were met by Felix. He took us over to visit Christine, a young 7 year old chimp. The enclosure where she stays does not contain her. Christine is quite a personality. She was walking along the top of the building when we first drove up, and dove into the cage with three other larger, older chimps.
Felix told us that she often scoots over to the other side of the road, gets into the family enclosure, despite the electric fence, and enjoys raising havoc, then escapes back to her "home." Felix brought along a treat, and called Christine over to visit us. She played as if she were shy at first, but then came over.
At first she was well behaved, then went to Mary and took her hand with her two hands. Mary smiled, then Christine got very mischievous. She tried to pull the blue sweater off of Mary's arm. When it became evident that this was not friendly, Mary tried to shake her off. Couldn't, she was very, very strong. Tom then tried to intervene. Both Tom and Mary received a bite (no skin broken), and Felix got her away. She kept trying to get to Mary, who was a bit freaked by this point. Christine climbed a tree and we walked away.
This little guy, only a year old offered a lot of laughs when Felix jumped up and down and the baby imitated him. It was evident that the keepers have good relations with the chimps in their care.
The chimps have nests high in the trees where they spend the night. None of them are inside their concrete house during the evening. The male chimps were, only because their trees have been destroyed. It seems not only humans can have negative impact on their environments.
Finishing with the first family enclosure, we drove up to where the second and third ones are located. Each enclosure is huge! They are surrounded by a double electric fence, partly to keep the chimps contained, and partly to keep them safe from predators.
This is a huge, huge, huge spider's web, with an even larger ant hill behind.
Fig trees are abundantly loaded, as were several other fruit trees.
Then we met Sandy. Sandy is a chimp who was raised in a house, somewhere in West Africa. She was sent to the sanctuary, and because of her exposure to humans screamed whenever another chimp tried to touch her. The new guide gave her mangos, and told us her story. They plan to move her back to the caged enclosure where Christine lives when some of those chimps can be moved into one of the three other family groups. Until then, she is content with staying in her "house" away from the chimps. The other reason they had to move her was more important.
Sandy is clever enough that she figured out how to take two long poles, lean then against the electric fence and escape. She never ran away, knowing where her food really came from. The guide said she just couldn't understand why she was supposed to be where the chimps family is, and not where the humans were. As chimps are easily taught the sanctuary did not want any more chimps with the ability to leave their enclosure. Since they are not native to Zambia, it is imperative that none escape beyond the sanctuary enclosures. The females are also given implants to avoid over populating the family groups.
I didn't take photos of Sandy, somehow it seemed an invasion of her privacy. Yes, I know, she is just a chimp. But, when she looked at us, staring deep into our eyes, there was a sense that she was more than just an animal for viewing. Her keeper talked about how she grooms him whenever he visits.
And fyi, the third family group was deep inside their compound, not coming when their keeper called.
Turning to head back home we started out along the road that parallels the first family enclosure. A large male was racing along, pacing us. In the rear view mirror, we could see the guard looked concerned, then we remembered that we had originally taken the other road. Because at that point we didn't realize the roads came back together, we backed up. When we told the guard we took the wrong turn he looked very, very pleased and relieved.
It was after we came back to where the two roads converged, that we realized they were the same ones. And it also occurred to us that perhaps that male chimp got his jollies by pelting cars with rocks! Fortunately, we weren't a test case.
Finally we turned homeward, and reached the highway where this small group of goats were munching on the other side of the highway.
On the way home we stopped at one of the many vegetable stands. Tom bought tomatoes, and whether he paid too much or not, all the women and children had huge smiles, and not a few laughs. We often provide comic relief here!