‘Baby Chimp Rescue’: Meet the Unusual Family Behind the ‘Joyous’ BBC Series

You’ll get a big dose of joy from the three-part series Baby Chimp Rescue, about a very unusual family: wildlife vet Jim Desmond; wife Jenny, an animal welfare consultant; and 21 orphaned chimpanzees (the number grows to 38 by the finale).

All live together at the couple’s Liberia sanctuary, where the care is truly round the clock. “We don’t get a whole lot of sleep!” says Jim, estimating that he and Jenny average four or five bed buddies a night. “If we have an early riser in the group, they wake everybody up.”

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Daytime hours are packed with practical lessons and playful antics. When the orphans aren’t making mischief like unwinding toilet paper rolls, they’re learning life skills: In one mesmerizing segment, Jenny teaches the babies to fear snakes by placing a rubber one on the ground and making chimp warning calls.

The need for fostering is great. Hunters kill the mothers for meat and sell the offspring as pets. The show highlights Liberia’s efforts to stop this cruelty as well as the Desmonds’ work with officials to rescue chimps and then arrest the owners.

Baby chimp rescue

(Credit: BBC)

Since releasing the orphans would be unsafe, the couple spend the series trying to lease a forest tract where their charges can frolic in their natural habitat. It’s pure elation when their “kids” finally visit. Says Jenny, “They transform from traumatized little people into thriving, happy and joyous individuals who have a family and can trust again.”

Catch an exclusive sneak peek at the unique family in the video clip, above.

Baby Chimp Rescue, Series Premiere, Saturday, December 5, 8/7c, BBC America