Innocent's story

Empowering an individual and a wildlife orphanage

Coming from an accounting background, l never thought l would end up doing Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes

Innocent, Primate Conservation graduate

I joined Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust (CWOT) some two years ago as an Education Officer. Sheila Siddle (Founder member) needed a native Zambian to run the education centre there. CWOT had a history of employing only white managers so when l joined the team, l became the first native manager there.

I had the advantage of learning a lot there from the local people. l was given ample time to learn about chimps (which at that time seemed to me as the only important primates). With so many schools and visitors coming to the area, l was forced to read more about other primates to keep myself up to date. For the last two years, l have been a 'student' of Professor Mark Bodamer (assistant Professor of psychology - Oregon State University USA) who has been teaching research students for the last five years.

Innocent and chimpApart from teaching local schools about conservation and environmental matters, I am also a chimp handler at the sanctuary, helping out with the 114 chimps. This involves every day interaction with these non human primates like taking the orphaned babies on daily bushwalks. This gives them confidence and courage to explore the forest knowing that some responsible humans are with them. These guys need to gain our trust because we're the same humans who kill their mothers and rob every thing from them. This has been my turning point in life!

With increase in the number of local and international schools visiting us, there was a need to have an academic in primates and conservation to run the education centre. A chance presented itself and l was accepted at Oxford Brookes. Like any other person coming from a third world country, l was so happy. My joy was short lived because CWOT did not have the means to send me here. Chimp handling and saving all those smuggled babies (we're 80km from Congo DR) had become my life. The experience l had gained (both dealing with schools and chimps) needed education back-up and so there was no way l was going to let my dream die.

l wrote to Oxford Brookes explaining my position. They got back to me with a scholarship grant offer. That was it! The full tuition grant came at the right time. I'm so grateful to everyone who was involved in this and most especially The Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation. They have helped me greatly to realise my dream and be of more value in primate conservation in Zambia. Rufford also made a big difference for my sanctuary because they desperately need an academic there”.

Thank you.