Be the guest of Lwiro sanctuary and you’ll feel like you are in the real African jungle safari. This 170 acre center for primate rehabilitation is located in Eastern DR Congo near Kahuzi-Beiga national park. Your visit to the center can be combined with gorilla trekking safaris or a day’s trip from Rwanda’s Lake Kivu or Bukavu town near Eastern DR Congo border.
Unlike other conventional wildlife sanctuaries, Lirwo is an open-range center giving care to about 72 orphaned chimpanzees and 92 monkeys including 11 different species of monkeys most of which were rescued from poachers and illegal pet traders.
However, a visit to the sanctuary highlights a 30 minute journey to Kahuzi-Beiga national park, natural habitat for the less famous but critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas/ lowland gorillas as well as elephants, lions, leopards, hippos, buffalos, antelopes and birds living in the park. There are also more species of mammals such as Bongo, Galago, Alexander’s bush squirrel, chameleons, and marine animals like aquatic civet, crocodiles and several amphibians.
At Lwiro sanctuary, visitors are offered a range of fun filled activities that get you close to chimpanzees and monkeys. Besides from feeding the animals, visitors also participate in local and children’s educational programs, visiting the ranger and research stations for exhibitions. All proceedings fund primate nursing, care and management costs.
Having witnessed an increase in the number of primates being rescued from poachers or illegal pet traders, the cost of managing the center becomes difficult without the support from visitors and donor programs are available to increase funds for sustainability.
The establishment of Lwira sanctuary in 2002 came from the joint efforts of Congolese institute for conservation of wildlife and nature (ICCN) along with the Center for research and Natural sciences (CRNS). During the second Congo war, from 1998 to 2004, poaching and habitat loss intensified leading to death of wildlife especially gorillas and other primates. Those that survived the poachers, become helpless moving into local communities creating more intense human wildlife conflicts in the area around Kahuzi-Beiga national park, eastern DR Congo.
The two institutes being Congolese government authorities, with ICCN responsible for law enforcement and security in all Congolese national parks and the CRNS research station for primate veterinary medicine and natural sciences, with financial and technical help from other conservation agencies decided to give care to the rescued chimps and monkeys.
Today, Lwira does a lot of work than conservation including rescuing, nursing, rehabilitating, and re-introduction of wildlife back to the wild, research and conservation education. However, the most important of all is improving the livelihood of local people through health, sanitation and tourism enterprise development. Lwira sanctuary is included in the International Conservation Action Plan for Low-Land Gorillas and Eastern Chimpanzee.