UmPhafa truly is a special place and was an experience I will never forget. Whether you have an interest in conservation or just want the adventure of a lifetime spending time with some amazing African animals in their natural habitat, I cannot recommend it highly enough. The staff are all amazing especially the Coordinators Sarah and Jandre, they are so welcoming and friendly.

I had never done anything like this before, travelling 8500 miles on my own and being away from my home in the UK for two months, but I can honestly say it is the best thing I have ever done. If you are in any doubt about whether you should do, just go for it, you won’t regret it.

I made friends for life, both animals and human, learnt vital conservation skills and have memories that will last a lifetime. I hope to go back some day…

Now stop reading this and just sign up!!

chemboChembo, a female chimpanzee, was confiscated from the illegal pet trade earlier this year having been kept in a narrow cage for six years and showing signs of thinking she was human.

Now she is recovering well at the Centre de Rehabilitation des Primates de Lwiro in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the help of Lwgushua, a kind male chimpanzee who is teaching her to be a chimpanzee again.

Another young chimp, Kindu, was saved from being sold after she was confiscated at the port and arrived at the Centre dehydrated and malnourished. Happily, she is now doing well living in the safety of the nursery unit with other young primates rescued from similar ordeals.

These are just two stories of the rescues that have taken place at Lwiro throughout 2015. It has in fact been a busy year for the Centre with 10 primates seized from the illegal pet trade, bringing the number of primates now living in the Centre to over 130. In addition, 2 chimpanzees and 2 monkeys will also be arriving soon following their confiscation.

Colchester Zoo’s Action for the Wild charity has been supporting the project for three years and, in 2015, donated a further £4,999 towards the cost of medicines and fresh fruit and vegetables, so the animals receive a high standard of nutrition and medical care. Our funds enable project staff to purchase vital medicine for the primates, such as vitamins, antibiotics and contraception, and to source fresh fruit and vegetables, such as potatoes, bananas, tomatoes, cabbages, beans, mangoes and avocadoes from the local markets, as well as varieties of flour, used to make the night time pap for the primates. By buying supplies from local producers and markets, the community can see the benefits of having the sanctuary nearby which increases the acceptance of conservation, essential for the future survival of primates like Chembo and Kindu.

Article kindly written by ©Sarah Jones Beer

The last few months at Colchester Zoo’s UmPhafa Reserve have been some of the most difficult since it first began. Veld fires have ravaged valuable grazing lands and times continue to remain tough with little rain and severe droughts are taking their toll.

The summer rains have been scarce and the poor natural conditions are starting to show on the animals, with some losses already recorded in both young and adult animals. With the lambing season soon to begin there will be even more pressure on the land. Since the largest of the fires took place in September staff at the reserve have started to supplement the animals feed, providing mineral licks, bales and pellets. It is evident that this could be an ongoing process over the summer months.

On average, a 50kg bag of game pellets will cost £10-12. Bales are becoming very scarce with many other reserves and farms also requiring food, however, currently bales have been averaging at a cost of £20.

To find out more about UmPhafa or how you can help the UmPhafa Reserve you can do so by clicking here. Donations are greatly appreciated to assist our team during this crucial time and most of all will be an enormous help our animals on the reserve. 

Are you having a pre-Christmas clear out? Perhaps you’re planning to sell some of your old belongings on Ebay?

Did you know that through ‘Ebay for Charity’ you can support good causes such as Colchester Zoo’s charity, Action for the Wild, through the sales you make online.

As a seller, whether an individual or business, you can donate a percentage from any of your sales to Action for the Wild. You decide exactly what percentage of your final selling price you’d like to give and the whole amount will go directly to our charity.  

It’s a simple way to make a difference and help conservation projects around the world with a click of a button.

Find out more about Colchester Zoo’s charity Action for the Wild and how your money can help here. 

For more information on how you can donate to us through ‘Ebay for Charity’ click here.

Colchester Zoo’s charity Action for the Wild supports VulPro, a vulture conservation programme in South Africa working to put Africa’s vultures first.

Kat Smith, one of our keepers at Colchester Zoo, volunteered at Vulpro in May 2015 and has since gone on to help with their October 2015 Vulture Conservation Project seminar!

The team at VulPro are extremely grateful for the support of which Action for the Wild gives to the project and were thankful for the donations from Colchester Zoo and its staff which will aid VulPro in continuing to safeguard the population of vultures in South Africa.


Keeper Kat reported on her experience at the VulPro conference, here’s what she had to say;

“I was fortunate enough to spend a month volunteering with the project in May where I had the opportunity to take part in vital conservation projects that made me feel as though I was really making a difference to vulture populations. Following this experience I decided to attend the annual VulPro seminar in October 2015. This enhanced my knowledge on what it takes to conserve Africa’s vultures and I was honoured to be given the responsibility of taking the minutes. At first I was apprehensive about undertaking this important task as over the 3 days, there were many important decisions and discussions that took place between collaborators. However, I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of VulPro’s mission to work towards a common goal which all vulture species will benefit from.

Over the course of the seminar, I was pleased to be involved and to share my knowledge with others who have a combined and specialist interest in helping to conserve vultures. From this experience, I have come to realise that saving Africa’s vultures is not easy and that key individuals and organisations working together is a vital part of the puzzle for vulture conservation.

As a zoo keeper at Colchester Zoo, I hope I can pass on this knowledge of vulture conservation to others and help them to understand why vultures are so important to our ecosystem.”

For more information on VulPro and to find out how you can help click here.

When we purchased the final piece of the UmPhafa puzzle there were a few changes we needed to make before we took down the fences between the new land and the older established lands. We wanted to ensure there was an adequate water supply on the new lands such as dams. Currently the animals were drinking from the river and a couple of small watering holes on the northern boundary. We would need to fence off the river to stop the animals from crossing on to the neighbouring farms. Wild animals and agricultural lands don’t generally go well together which is understandable.

We had planned out all these work for over the next few months.  Then Mother Nature threw a spanner in the works and this time scale changed within a matter of a week. Wild fires ravaged through the whole reserve. The new farm was hit particularly badly. Most of the grazing was gone we would have to get these fences down immediately to allow the animals on the new lands through to our other areas so that they could find food. Our maintenance team got cracking and the fences came down.


Since the fences have come down we have seen a considerable amount of movement onto the more established areas. Animals know where the grass is greener and wasted no time in heading off the burnt areas.

An interesting animal movement we noticed was by our Giraffe. A couple of years ago we moved a large group of Giraffe onto what was then our second farm from our first farm. Separating our first and second farm was our new lands.

With the fences now down some of the female Giraffes have moved from the second farm and through the burnt new lands and are heading for their old home. We find this incredibly fascinating. There is plenty of food on the area where they have been for the last two years, but I guess who are we to tell these animals where home is. In the not too distant future when we take our final fence down between the new lands and the first farm these ladies will be able to go wherever they wish as will all the animals. This is a day that has been a long time coming in the history of UmPhafa and we cannot wait. 

With security incidents such as poaching on the increase in South Africa it is important that we equip our reserve’s first responders with the necessary protective equipment. Sadly the use of firearms by poachers is a reality so we felt it was necessary to obtain a number of bullet proof vest and helmets for our response team.


We decided to contact a number of companies that supplied this type of security equipment to see if anyone would like to donate something to us. Vestguard UK did more than just supply a few items. Being aware of the work that we do in South Africa and our charity, Action for the Wild, Alex Miller, Commercial Manager at Vest Guard, explained that Vestguard UK would be more than happy to supply four sets of their top of the range bullet proof vests, with NIJ level 3a soft armour and NIJ level 4 hard armour plates. In addition, they would also supplyfour NIJ level 3a combat helmets, thereby offering us the highest level of ballistic personal protection.  


This was a fantastic gesture, with this donation amounting to the value of £4,000, and we would like to extend a big thank you to Vestguard UK for their support. Our vests and helmets have arrived on the reserve, although, we hope that their full potential will never need to be fulfilled. 

In mid September, Foundation rescue teams were called out late at night to rescue a seven-year-old male orangutan found roaming about a local oil-palm plantation. Fortunately, the orangutan, now named Gagap, has already been successfully released into Camp Buluh in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve. In September alone the Foundation undertook several rescues, with two orangutans rescued from community land, and also two crocodiles, two gibbons, three slow lorises, one eagle and one wildcat. The Foundation prides itself on being able to ensure that a wide variety of Indonesian wildlife is translocated into the safety of their protected reserve. Though the need for rescues is never good news, each translocation helps to rebuild these endangered populations in a habitat safe from the threats of oil-palm plantations and illegal activity. 


In October, the Orangutan Foundation celebrates 25 years of achievements at the forefront of orangutan conservation in Borneo. Their work has made a real difference on the ground:

  • They have reintroduced orangutans to establish a viable population in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve in Central Kalimantan. More than 60 orangutan infants have been born here to reintroduced females in the past 15 years. 
  • They have safeguarded three critical orangutan populations from illegal logging, fires and conversion of forest to oil palm. This includes the largest wild population of orangutans outside a protected area, in Belantikan.
  • They have provided alternative livelihoods for local people surrounding orangutan habitat.

To mark their 25th Anniversary, they are now launching an ambitious challenge to secure the future of 8,000 hectares of prime, critical orangutan habitat adjacent to the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve. The area (larger than Guernsey in the Channel Islands) would increase the size of the reserve by 15 per cent, bringing the total extent of its protected habitat to 64,000 hectares. Action for the Wild is proud to be supporting this important project so please consider donating here:


Orangutans are facing daily threats of injury and death from the conflict between humans and wildlife over the rich habitat in the forests of Borneo. Individual orangutans are becoming trapped and isolated as the natural resources of the forest are destroyed for logging and oil palm plantations.

But the struggle to survive as their habitat disappears is being eased thanks to the protection of the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

The Orangutan Foundation’s translocation project rescued 18 orangutans stranded on oil palm plantations and on community land in 2014, and a further six so far this year. The rescued orangutans were successfully moved into the Reserve where an expert vet keeps an eye on them to make sure they are rehabilitated and are doing well in their new environment.

Happily several of the rescued females on the Reserve have since given birth in the safety of the protected forest.

Colchester Zoo’s Action for the Wild charity has donated £38,000 to orangutan conservation since 2007. The charity’s latest £5,000 donation will help towards paying for veterinary care during the rescues and at the Reserve, and to support the costs of the relocation missions, such as fuel and medication.

The Orangutan Foundation hopes to decrease the need to rescue orangutans by gaining support from local communities through education programmes on human-wildlife conflict, essential to preserve the survival of Borneo’s orangutans.

Article kindly written by ©Sarah Jones Beer

fire-umphafaSadly Colchester Zoo’s UmPhafa Reserve has recently been involved in fighting a fire which had broken out on the top of the mountains in the area. It took over 4 days for the fire to be extinguished with the amazing staff at the reserve having to compete with strong winds, which not only helped the fire to spread over the land very quickly, but also made it extremely difficult to get the flames under control. Thanks to the teams amazing effort all the animals on the reserve have so far been accounted for but it is unknown what other low-lying reptiles and burrowing animals, not monitored by our staff, may have been affected.

fire-internalAlthough the team were able to prevent any animal causalities, a vast amount of good grazing land has now been destroyed, but staff will not be defeated and have been busy looking into other ways to feed the wildlife and have already begun the process of bringing in feed to make sure that the animals remain healthy and strong. 


Unfortunately incidents such as this are not uncommon in Africa and fire outbreaks happen quite often however this is on a much larger scale than usual and has devastated large parts of the reserve.

Find out more about how you can support the reserve through adoptions and donations here.

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