An animal orphanage in Zimbabwe is one of the organizations leading efforts to ensure poaching and development do not wipe out the wildlife of the southern African nation.
About half an hour drive southeast of Bulawayo is a special orphanage caring for abandoned and injured animals. The Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage is home to 25 animal species, some endangered, some rescued from poachers.
Vivian and Paddy Wilson established the orphanage in 1973 and a second generation now runs it. Chipangali’s co-director Nicky Wilson explains what motivated her in-laws to begin rescuing wildlife.
“(When) Chipangali was formed there was only CROW (Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife), which was in Durban (South Africa) and Daphne Sheldrick Orphanage in Kenya. There was no other places where you would put animals that wouldn’t survive in the wild,” Wilson said.
Animals are brought to Chipangali after being injured, seized, or orphaned, says Wilson. Some are later released into the wild, and some are not.
“Some birds might have flown into power lines and are missing part of their wings, they won’t be able to be released. We also have baby animals, sometimes if they are reared, they become too tame and assume that every human is friendly, unfortunately that is not the case in our world. So, they will stay here permanently and utilize them for our education,” Wilson said.
The oldest resident of the orphanage is a crocodile rescued four decades ago from a community angry it was eating their goats and cattle.
The locals wanted to kill the crocodile, believed to be in its 90s, but at Chipangali it was made part of the education program for visitors.
Wilson shows visiting journalists a display of animal fetuses, removed from mothers that died in poacher’s snares.
“We are obviously trying to educate mainly locals and anyone who comes visit us here at Chipangali into the importance of Zimbabwe wildlife heritage. Tourists would not come and visit Zimbabwe if it weren’t for the big five: elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and then rhino. Because without our wildlife, they wouldn’t come to Zimbabwe. So we are trying to tell people to look after our animals,” Wilson said.
Since its creation, Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage has rescued and released numerous animals into the nearby Matobo National Park.
They include several troops of vervet monkeys and baboons, more than 30 pangolins, five leopards, 20 cheetahs, and various antelopes, small carnivores, and birds of prey.