Jenny and Jimmy Desmond are the founders of Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection (LCRP) in West Africa and its affiliate 501c3 in the United States, Partners in Animal Protection and Conservation (PAPC). Along with their team, Jenny and Jimmy work to improve the lives of chimpanzees, both wild and orphaned, in Liberia.
As founder of LCRP, Jenny Desmond is living the life she always knew would be hers: a life of animal conservation and protection. She and her team care for chimpanzees who are orphaned as a result of the illegal bushmeat and wildlife trades. She spends days conducting LCRP business, but at night, Jenny is “mom” to the orphans who are handed over to LCRP’s sanctuary by wildlife officials after confiscation. She nurtures them and helps them form bonds with the other chimpanzees in LCRP's care to ensure they have fulfilling lives in their sanctuary family. While providing love, enrichment, and refuge to these chimps—an immediate need—Jenny actively works toward her ultimate goal: to protect wild chimpanzee populations by partnering in the fight against animal trafficking and implement successful conservation initiatives.
Jimmy Desmond is a wildlife veterinarian and a consultant specializing in emerging disease and the illegal wildlife trade. He graduated from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, earning a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and a Masters in Comparative Biomedical Sciences. Alongside his work with LCRP, Jim leads research on infectious disease, including identifying the wildlife reservoir for the Ebola virus.
...they visited Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in Borneo and realized that helping endangered species and making meaningful change in animal conservation could become their life’s work.
Since the Desmonds embarked on a round-the-world backpacking trip in 1999, they’ve been involved in the field of wildlife conservation. On that trip, they visited Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in Borneo and realized that helping endangered species and making meaningful change in animal conservation could become their life’s work. For the next couple of years, Jenny and Jimmy traveled to Africa and Asia, volunteering at sanctuaries and wildlife conservation organizations to learn and to understand how they operate.
Along the way, they met and nurtured orphaned animals of many species. In 2000, they were offered the opportunity that would change their lives: rehabilitating two year-old-orphaned chimpanzee, Matooke. Their experience with Matooke confirmed for the Desmonds that their efforts could benefit individuals and on a larger scale, the protection and preservation of entire species.
After several months of love and care, Matooke was successfully integrated into Uganda Wildlife Education Centre’s rescued chimpanzee family, and Jenny and Jimmy returned to the U.S. to pursue education and experience that would lead them back to wildlife conservation in Africa. Jimmy entered vet school, and Jenny held positions in nonprofits that provided experience in fundraising and marketing—skills that are invaluable in her work today.
Since 2010, Jenny and Jimmy, along with their dog Princess, have been in Africa working with wildlife conservation organizations that include The Jane Goodall Institute, EcoHealth Alliance, Smithsonian Institute, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, and
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. A team of three, Jenny, Jimmy, and Princess have lived in nine countries together, always with the mission of helping wildlife and furthering conservation initiatives.
Princess plays an important role as a canine caregiver, providing her “siblings” a lot of fun, setting gentle boundaries, and shepherding them toward empathy and mutual understanding.
In 2015, the Humane Society of the United States asked the Desmonds to relocate to Liberia from Kenya to take over care of 66 chimpanzees, living across six islands in an estuarine habitat, who had been retired from medical research. These chimps, formerly the responsibility of the New York Blood Center (NYBC), were on the verge of starvation,
having been abandoned by the NYBC some months earlier. Jenny and Jimmy came to Liberia to create new feeding, care, and birth control protocols. Within weeks, the “island chimps” began to trust that food and water would be brought to them consistently; improvements in their demeanor and physical health were remarkable. With their most basic needs met, they began to thrive in healthy communities and trusting relationships.
Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection grew out of this experience, as word spread that the Desmonds could care for confiscated and orphaned chimps. Immediately upon their arrival in Liberia, chimpanzee orphans literally arrived on their doorstep, needing not only emergency care but lifetime sanctuary. To date, the Desmonds have taken in over 40 chimpanzees, ranging in age from a few months to ten years and numbers are growing rapidly. Ideally, these individuals will form a family and live together in a sanctuary that simulates—as closely as possible—a life in the wild.
Of course, the Desmond's hope is that fewer and fewer chimps will need care in sanctuaries—because those in the wild will be protected. Now residents of Liberia themselves, the Desmonds work alongside local Liberians, the government and international organizations to charge and arrest wildlife traffickers and poachers involved in the bushmeat and pet trades.
LCRP is also involved in many complementary programs, partnering with a diverse group of local and international organizations to further wildlife protection and conservation initiatives. Their hope is that with collaborative energy and efforts in all aspects of protection and conservation, the critically endangered chimpanzee and the unique biodiversity of Liberia will thrive.