The Chimpanzee Conservation Centre (CCC) is a sanctuary and a rehabilitation centre for rescued orphaned chimps in West Africa. Located on the banks of the River Niger in the Haut Niger National Park in Somoria, Guinea, the centre covers around 6,000 square kilometres of savannah and forest.

Chimpanzee Conservation Centre Somoria Guinea
Keeper Albert Wamouno feeds Missy after a bushwalk at the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Established in 1997, CCC is supported by Project Primate, a US not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the protection and preservation of chimpanzees in West Africa and around the world. The centre currently looks after 50 western chimpanzees, one of the most endangered sub-species of chimpanzee. Most of the babies were snatched from their family groups for the pet trade or orphaned when their mothers were killed for bushmeat.

The centre rehabilitates and cares for the animals, and ultimately aims to release them back into the wild, a process that takes more than 10 years. When they arrive at the centre, the baby chimpanzees often have serious health conditions that need round-the-clock care, such as skin and respiratory diseases. They often have psychological disorders related to abuse and captivity, as well as malnutrition.

After a period of quarantine, the chimpanzees are integrated with a group of their peers. They spend many years learning and re-learning the skills that they will need once release back into the wild. For the first few years of rehabilitation, orphaned chimpanzees go on daily bush outings accompanied by volunteers and a keeper. They are able to freely climb trees and learn how to forage for food and socially interact.

The older chimpanzees have access to a five hectare enclosure where they can find food, nest in trees at night. Keepers interact with them only for veterinary care or with occasional help with meals. As this is the final stage before release, this phase lasts for a few years to allow the building of stable, unified community relationships that best reflect that of wild groups.

As they grow older and become more confident with other chimpanzees, human contact is reduced in preparation for release back in to the wild, when possible. Once released into the Haut Niger National Park, the chimpanzees rarely see CCC staff or other humans. Released chimps are fitted with radio and GPS collars to allow monitoring. Results have been encouraging so far – a few released females have integrated with wild chimpanzee communities, resulting in the birth of five babies.

The centre also aims to educate the local and international community about the threats faced by wild chimpanzee populations and raise awareness to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking. Find out how you can help the centre protect more chimpanzees.