The management of Ngamba Island, a sanctuary providing shelter to chimps has appealed to the public and the government to come to the rescue of the 50 primates under their care which are threatened by starvation due the current COVID19 crisis which brought business to a stand still.
The sanctuary, which is managed by The Chimpanzee Trust – a local NGO – closed its doors to tourist visitors in early March, much earlier than the government announced the general lockdown that has since dragged on for almost six weeks. Chimpanzees are very much vulnerable to virus diseases than humans which has made the negative impact of the crisis more biting for them.
Currently home to 20 male and 30 female chimpanzees, Ngamba Island has been home to orphaned and rescued chimpanzees since 1998.
Four of the chimps have been born at the island over the years. The sanctuary provides welfare in terms of feeding, providing veterinary care and an environment for the chimpanzees to rehabilitate and live out their lives.
The trust also runs education and conservation programs for the conservation of the species and protection of their natural habitat. With the outbreak of COVID-19, business has almost come to a halt.
“We normally feed the chimpanzees four times a day with select fruits, vegetables and cereals to provide them with the nutrition they need to live healthy,” says Dr Josh Rukundo – the Executive Director of the Trust.
The chimpanzees feed on about 2,625KG of fruits and vegetables, every month, supplied now every 10 days unlike in the past where it was done every 5 days. This is done to reduce movements on the island which could boost infection chances. The chimpanzees also need about 500Kg of posho and millet in equal measure as well as another 50Kg of soy, every month!
With no support from government on operational cost, the Trust has entirely been depending on revenue from tourists revenue – about 70 per cent – with the other 30 coming from individual donors and visitors to the Island, majority of whom were foreigners. With the local down, such sources were blocked.
Very desperate to keep their dedicated staff who have selflessly accepted to take a pay cut in these difficult times, the management of the Island has made an alarm to the public and the Government to assist in donating for the noble cause of preserving the lives of the apes which would flourish naturally in about 1,000 hectares of forest as opposed to the 100 they inhabit.
“We appeal to the Ugandans and the local companies that can to support us in way which ever way can,” Dr Rukundo pleaded.
Last week, the Island received donations from Bernard Ocan (Shs75,000), General Katumba Wamala (Shs150,000)
Dr. James Musinguzi (100$) and Dr Maggie Kigozi (Shs1M).
On job cuts, Dr Rukundo said management doesn’t intend to lay off any of the staff.
“As staff we have always considered ourselves a family and we try to lookout for one another. In this crisis the family has offered, willingly, to earn a little less as we all struggle through these tough times. And yet protecting these animals remains a top priority for each one of us at the island,” Dr Rukundo added.
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