Giving sad chimpanzees a new lease of life…


My name is Mimi Swift and I have been to Africa to work with chimpanzees over ten times, and have never asked for a penny towards it. This has included many different roles, from tourism, to caring for baby chimps, to general caregiving, to illustrating children’s books to working on documentaries. This year I started my MSc in Primate Conservation, and the work I do with these chimpanzees will be part of my thesis research.

Western chimpanzees are Critically Endangered (IUCN), and only a small population (of less than 500) are thought to still exist in Ghana. There is no sanctuary in Ghana so orphan victims of the bushmeat trade and pet trade that are confiscated get put in Kumasi zoo.

Some of these chimps have lived in the small cages at the zoo for over 30 years!


This April I am going to Ghana to improve the lives of six very disturbed chimpanzees who are living in an underfunded zoo in Kumasi, Ghana. I am doing this for the first time independent of any sanctuary or organization. These chimps display abnormal behaviours such as rocking, hair plucking, and self-harm. I want to do all I can to decrease these behaviours and their stress levels by providing t five freedoms…

Freedom from hunger and thirst – by providing enough fresh water and the right type and amount of food to keep them t.
Freedom from discomfort – by making sure that animals have the right type of environment including shelter and somewhere comfortable to rest.
Freedom from pain, injury and disease – by preventing them from getting ill or injured and by making sure animals are diagnosed and treated rapidly if they do.
Freedom to express normal behaviour – by making sure animals have enough space, proper facilities and the company of other animals of their own kind.
Freedom from fear and distress – by making sure their conditions and treatment avoid mental suffering.


I will be there for one month where I will study their behaviour, to understand the extent of their depression and get to know thier individual behaviours. I will then have a second study period where I give them species specific enrichment, nesting and foraging materials, access to water and decrease contact with visitors.