The first sanctuary for victims of the illegal wildlife trade in Cameroon


During the early 1990’s, Pandrillus Co-Founders Peter Jenkins and Liza Gadsby conducted a drill survey across western Cameroon. During that time, their fieldwork took them to remote wild areas and villages in several provinces where they frequently saw wild born chimpanzees kept as pets in terrible conditions. Consequently, they knew something had to be done for Cameroon’s primates!

The Problem

Some chimpanzees were chained up on the roadside in the middle of nowhere and others were locked in chicken coops or dark storerooms in villages. Furthermore, others were caged in the yards of expensive private homes or in noisy garden bars in upscale hotels in the capital. The lucky ones had a chimpanzee companion but that was rare – most were desperately lonely. They were hungry, cold, thirsty, often sick or injured and bored. Most of these intelligent animals lived in horrendous filth. Yet they had something in common: when you looked in their eyes, they still had hope!

It shocked Peter and Liza that international conservation groups working in Cameroon overlooked these animals as a matter of policy; a hypocrisy not lost on Cameroonians. In brief, how can we send a message to Cameroonians that their wildlife matters if we ignore wildlife suffering all around the country? During this time there was no facility for chimpanzees or the myriad of other primates suffering similarly in the country. Fortunately, Peter and Liza rescued and re-homed a few chimpanzees, but when their database topped 45, they knew something must be done. In short, Cameroon needed a rescue facility for chimpanzees!

The Solution

After several meetings between Pandrillus and the Government of Cameroon and visits to various locations, they decided that the old Victoria Zoo would be an ideal location for a wildlife sanctuary.

At the time, Victoria Zoo housed:

  • Three drills;
  • A hairless but cheerful chimpanzee called Suzanne (who is now the matriarch of our island chimpanzee group);
  • An adult male mandrill living in the steel crate he arrived in three years prior;
  • Three baboons;
  • Mona, putty-nose, preuss’ and tantalus monkeys; and
  • And two red-capped mangabeys.

All primates except the crated mandrill were nailed into tiny wire cages. Additionally, the zoo housed some reptiles, duikers, birds and small carnivores. At that time there were old lion cages and other enclosures. They were rusty and empty, but still serviceable.

What Happened Next?

The keepers, together with Peter and Liza, worked diligently to improve procedures and standards for feeding, enclosures, and care. Amazingly, in less than 10 minutes they transferred the adult male mandrill into the empty lion cage! His subsequent smile lit up the whole zoo and inspired the whole team to improve the lives of every animal.

In short, the old zoo had beautiful grounds, full-time water and electricity, and loads of potential. Furthermore, Limbe was a popular town and weekend destination for Cameroonians. Finally, here was the rescue centre that was so desperately needed! And so in a partnership between the Government of Cameroon and the Pandrillus Foundation, the Limbe Wildlife Centre was born in 1993!

The LWC Today

Today the Limbe Wildlife Centre /  Pandrillus Cameroon is a world-renowned conservation and animal welfare organisation. Furthermore, we are a founding member of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance. In short, we provide care to any wildlife in need of a second chance. The vast majority of the animals are classified as critically endangered or endangered. Some of the species at the LWC include the Western Lowland Gorilla, Chimpanzee, Drill, African Grey Parrot, Dwarf Crocodile and many more species. Find out more!