Chimfunshi was founded in 1983 when a game ranger brought a badly wounded infant chimpanzee to the cattle ranch of David and Sheila Siddle, a British couple who had lived in along the Zambian copperbelt since the 1950s. The Siddles nursed that chimp nicknamed "Pal" back to health, thereby establishing a tradition of care and respect that forms the legacy of the sanctuary.
Once word of Pals recovery spread, the Siddles found themselves inundated with orphaned chimpanzees. Although many are confiscated from poachers who attempt to smuggle the infants into Zambia for sale as pets, an equally large number are rescued from dilapidated zoos and circuses from all over Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.
The Siddles bestow love and care upon the traumatized apes and gradually introduce them to the extended family at Chimfunshi. Five social groups inhabit the free-range enclosures that span 1,100 acres at the orphanage, including two 500-acre enclosures, the largest area ever set aside for captive primates.
A third 500-acre enclosure will be opened in late 2003.
The Siddles work has won them a steady stream of honors and awards, including the United Nations Environment Programmes Global 500 Award (2000), the Audi / Terra Nova nomination (2001), a special commendation from the Nedbank / mail & Guardian Green Trust Awards (2000), and the Jane Goodall Award (995). In 2001, the Siddles were granted MBEs by Queen Elizabeth II in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
In 2002, Sheila Siddle published her autobiography, In My Family Tree: A Life With Chimpanzees (Grove/Atlantic) to widespread acclaim.
Read more about the past 20 years of Chimfunshi's contribution to the world of wildlife conservation. Read more >