Captive chimpanzee welfare


Burundi is a vibrant nation with rich cultural traditions like art, dance, music, and handicrafts. Nestled between Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it’s the fifth smallest country by area in continental Africa. It’s also the second most densely populated and has the lowest GDP per capita. This, together with its political history and past conflicts, has pushed Burundi’s chimpanzee population to the brink.

Demand for land in Burundi is high. More than 90% of Burundian’s livelihoods depend on subsistence farming, yet their overall agricultural productivity remains low. All but a few patches of once abundant forest have been cleared and converted to farmland. These small, isolated forest fragments, along with Kibira National Park in the north, are the last remaining bastions for Burundi’s 400 chimpanzees.

Musée Vivant Redevelopment

Musée Vivant (Living Museum) is a 3ha zoo and museum dedicated to the wildlife and art of Burundi. Located in Bujumbura, Burundi’s largest city and former capital, it’s a government-run facility managed by the Ministry of Tourism, but sadly it’s severely underfunded.

Amongst its collection are 5 chimpanzees: adults Joy, Avril, and Lulu, and juveniles Chipy, and Flora. In 2021, JGIA was alerted to the poor and inadequate conditions the then three original chimps (Joy, Kita, and Flora) were living in. Seeing the chimps being underfed and housed in small, unsafe cages, we decided to intervene. Since then, in collaboration with funding partner, Sydney Zoo, local implementing partner, 3C, and technical advisor, Debby Cox, we’ve been supporting the redevelopment of the chimpanzee’s housing infrastructure and the provision of their daily care, dietary, and medical requirements.

In 2022, after funding the construction on a new indoor enclosure and renovation of another, an additional three chimpanzees (Chippy, Avril, and Lulu) were able to be transferred from private residences to Musée Vivant with the help of specialist veterinary staff from Lwiro Primate Rehabilitation Centre in DRC. All known captive chimps in Burundi are now together in professional care.


Joy is Musée Vivant’s only adult male chimpanzee. Born in 2002, he came to Musée Vivant in 2015 after being kept as a pet at a restaurant in Bujumbura. When the venue was sold, the new owner surrendered him to Musée Vivant. After the devastating passing of his long-time friend and roommate, Kita, in April 2023, Joy is currently housed alone in a dilapidated caged enclosure. However, thanks to an extremely generous donation, construction of a new, purpose-built room for Joy is scheduled to commence in July 2023.


Kita was an adult female and Musée Vivant’s longest chimpanzee resident. In 2011, at 4 years old, she arrived at Musée Vivant after being surrendered by an expat living in Rumonge, southwestern Burundi, who was no longer able to take care of her. Kita sadly passed away in April 2023, following the spread of a cellulitis infection originating in her left foot and leg. The assessment by the attending specialist vet, visiting from DRC, determined the infection was likely due to the poor infrastructure and inadequate conditions of her enclosure. He also stated her death could have been avoided if specialist staff been on-site to monitor her condition and treat it appropriately. The loss of Kita highlights how critical and urgent our work is to ensuring the health and safety of Musée Vivant’s five remaining chimpanzees.


April is a 9 year old female chimpanzee who arrived at Musée Vivant together with Lulu in August 2022. Prior to this, the two females were housed together at the private residence of an expat couple living in Bujumbura. April had been kept there since the age of 1 year old.


At 16 years old, Lulu is Musée Vivant’s oldest female chimpanzee. As with April, she had been living at the private residence of an expat couple in Bujumbura since she was was 1 year old before being surrendered to Musée Vivant in August 2022. Lulu and April are still roommates, sharing the enclosure that was funded through JGIA’s support.


Flora is one two juveniles at Musée Vivant. At 6 years old, she’s beginning to show signs of maturity, but still enjoys spending most of her time playing with her roommate Chippy. Before moving into her new home in 2022, she had been kept alone in a tiny cage since she was 8 months old after being surrendered to Musée Vivant from a private residence. This tough start hasn’t dampened her spirits though. Flora has shown amazing resilience, remaining a vibrant, playful chimp who is much loved by all the staff and visitors of Musée Vivant.


This rambunctious, 5 year old boy is Musée Vivant’s youngest and cheekiest chimpanzee. Chippy was also kept at the same private residence as Avril and Lulu, but had been housed separately from the two females since arriving there at 3 months old. Following the renovation of his now home, he was surrendered to Musée Vivant in 2022. As soon they were introduced, Chippy immediately bonded with his new roommate, Flora.

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