Lessons in freedom and family from rescued monkeys


Wyson Kondwani came to South Africa to find a way to support his family in Malawi. Earnest in his efforts to eke out a living, he never imagined monkeys in his future. But the primates found a way into his heart and now form an important part of his life. For the last seven years, Kondwani has worked at the foot of the Magaliesberg mountains alongside monkeys such as the squirrel, spider and capuchin, as well as lemurs and bushbabies.

Kondwani is a guide for Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary in the North-West Province. The nature reserve is home to over a hundred primates rescued from zoos and research facilities, as well as from owners who belatedly discover that capuchin monkeys, while cute, do not make ideal pets. The cageless sanctuary is spread out over seven hectares, giving the creatures the chance to live as they would in the wild, without the danger that comes with actually releasing them. “Many of them are not indigenous to South Africa. They grow up in captivity – they cannot survive in the wild,” Kondwani explains.

Beyond conservation, the guided tours provide many teachable moments. “People can learn from monkeys, such as how to take care of their families,” Kondwani says. In turn, he is constantly taking lessons from the different people he meets every day. “The work I do here, it makes me proud,” he says, offering a peanut to a patient monkey. Kondwani is not only giving these creatures the opportunity of a better life, he’s improving his own.