Rubondo Island: A Place for Wild Animals
In 1966 an Oscar-winning German zoologist-conservationist trans-located 17 unhappy and unrelated chimpanzees from far flung zoos and circuses across Europe, moving them to an uninhabited, densely forested 60,000-acre island in Lake Victoria…and setting them free.
More than 50 years later, Rubondo Island in Tanzania is one of the most successful chimp colonies in Africa, with a growing population of over 100 chimps living in one large troop who have developed their own distinct culture. They are also very reluctant to be habituated to humans again, making tourism there scarce — which means the island national park operates at a significant loss, leaving Rubondo’s fate and the fate of the wild chimpanzees who have made it their new home, uncertain.
Where is Rubondo Island?
Located in the southwest corner of Lake Victoria — the largest lake in Africa — Tanzania’s Rubondo Island National Park is 28 km long and on average about five km wide. It’s more than four times the size of Manhattan and surrounded by crocodile-infested waters. A full three-quarters of its 237 square kilometers is covered with thick, Conoglese-style forests. Including the surrounding protected waters and other islets, the total area of this Tanzanian Jurassic Park is over 457 square kilometers, almost eight times as big as Manhattan.
“I was aware our project had its dangers…but I was delighted to give these chimpanzees back their freedom.”
Dr. Bernhard Grzimek
We raised enough money to complete our first round of interviews in Germany and a first round of shooting on the island in Tanzania this past December (2018). But we need more funding to go back to Tanzania for another three weeks this summer to get the rest of the footage we need of the elusive chimpanzees on the island. And then we need to raise a bit more for the post-production phase.
We are still looking to secure another 125k for the coming shoot later this summer on the island. All donations to the project via Empowers Africa (our fiscal sponsor) are tax deductible.
We will need about another 100k to edit and polish the film in post production here in New York this fall (2019). We’ll be using that money both for editing and graphics as well as paying for the archival footage from when the chimpanzees were dropped on the island in the 1960s.
Our aim is to have it all ready to debut in spring of 2020 at the Berlinale. Then we will be licensing it to one of the channels/streamer here in the US — like Netflix, HBO or NatGeoTV — for distribution.