We all want to keep ourselves and others safe from the COVID-19 outbreak. During these unprecedented times, it’s important for all those who work and spend time in close proximity with other people to wear masks. However, for places like wildlife sanctuaries, purchasing masks for staff members and volunteers cuts into the limited budget that these sanctuaries have to care for their beloved animals.
That’s why GreaterGood is donating thousands of masks to wildlife sanctuaries as part of our Mask a Million Challenge. Our goal has been to donate at least one million masks to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve met that goal already, but we’re not stopping there! We’ll continue to donate masks to medical professionals, elder care workers, food service workers, and, of course, the staff and volunteers who work at animal shelters and wildlife sanctuaries for as long as they’re needed.
So far, GreaterGood has donated masks to 11 sanctuaries in four African countries to help their workers and volunteers stay safe, as well as to keep the animals safe. Each of these wildlife sanctuaries is part of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance.
In Cameroon, the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue is home to 76 chimpanzees, and Papaye International is home to 32 more. Ape Action Africa houses 23 gorillas, 118 chimps, and 135 monkeys. And the Limbe Wildlife Centre takes care of 15 gorillas, 44 chimps, 148 monkeys, and several other species, including African gray parrots.
“Along with hand washing, masks are the most important defense that sanctuaries have against the coronavirus,” says Sheri Speede, founder and director of Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue. “At Sanaga-Yong, they are mandatory for any caregiver coming within six feet of our chimpanzees, their enclosures, their food, their medicine or their nesting materials. Masks are protecting the rescued chimpanzees in our care, as well those living free around the sanctuary. Thank you very much for your support!”
In the Republic of Congo, the Tchimpouga sanctuary houses 136 chimpanzees and 16 monkeys, while HELP Congo cares for 16 chimps. In South Africa, the Vervet Monkey Foundation looks after a whopping 585 monkeys. Chimp Eden is home to 33 chimpanzees, and C.A.R.E. has over 400 baboons to provide for.
“Chimps can die of the common cold, so the wearing of masks when we are working with them during the COVID pandemic is essential,” says Pauline Stuart, head of Chimp Eden. “The masks are assisting in the prevention of the staff from contracting COVID from the people they come into contact with and transferring it to the other staff and to our chimps. All of the staff at Chimp Eden are wearing the masks every time they are either with the chimps, in their enclosures (cleaning, etc), when they are preparing food, etc., and when in the company of others.”
The last country where GreaterGood has donated masks is Kenya, where Sweetwaters is home to 37 chimps, and Colobus Conservation keeps 25 monkeys in long-term care, as well as many more that come in periodically as rescues.
In case you weren’t counting, that’s well over 1800 animals between four countries and 11 sanctuaries. These primates need a great deal of care and attention from the teams of people who work at the wildlife sanctuaries, and they couldn’t do so safely without masks to protect themselves and those around them against disease.
These masks are protecting more than just people too. There’s been some debate recently about whether some animals might be able to contract the COVID-19 virus from humans, and, while your cat or dog may be fairly safe from the disease, primates share more of their genetic makeup with humans, making them more likely to be able to contract COVID-19. More research needs to be done to determine exactly how susceptible primates are to this disease, but in the meantime, it’s better safe than sorry when it comes to the precious creatures that live at these wildlife sanctuaries. Staff, volunteers, and visitors who wear masks when near the apes and monkeys are doing their part to keep them safe and healthy.
GreaterGood is honored to be able to help provide these wildlife sanctuaries with masks so that employees and volunteers can continue to do their essential jobs. Keep up the good work, everyone!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?