Who is Limbani?
Limbani is a lovable chimp with nearly one million Instagram followers. He lives at the Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF) in Miami, Florida, and has won over the hearts and minds of animal lovers worldwide. Regardless of how you feel about animals in captivity, it’s hard to deny the lovability of this chimp. I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with Limbani, as well as interview ZWF’s Co-Founder, Co-President and Director Maria Tabraue.
Maria Tabraue grew up watching Mutual of Omaha’s television series Wild Kingdom with her Father on Sundays. As they watched week after week, her dream for the future crystalized. “One day I’m going to Africa” she said to herself. “I will care for exotic animals” and “create Africa in Miami.”
ZWF was founded by Mario and Maria Tabraue in 2001 as an oasis to educate the public about rare and endangered animals. One thing that separates the ZWF from traditional zoos is that it allows guests to hold and pet the animals (closely monitored by animal trainers of course). The ZWF experience provides memories that will last forever, with a larger mission to encourage education and conservation of exotic animals globally.
To this end, Maria uses social media as a tool to allow more people to experience the animals of ZWF. This is particularly important during these socially distanced times. Follow @zwfmiami to watch the lions eat, monkeys play, owls hoot, and follow Limbani @limbanizwf.
When I asked Maria “Who is Limbani,” she lit up and responded, “he’s a loveable, easy going, and beautiful member of our family.” She also noted affectionately, that he is “in his terrible twos.” A day in Limbani’s life starts with heading to his daytime outdoor habitat in the early morning. He is fed in the morning and at night, exercised regularly, and then “returned to his night enclosure around 6:30pm with blankets and toys to wind down.”
Since we are Wine4Food after all, I had to know what Limbani eats and drinks. He is an omnivore with a pension for bananas. Trite but true. And just like us, he loves sugar which is strictly rationed at ZWF, but is occasionally allowed in the form of ice cream (they also make him a special ice with gelatin and peanuts). He is currently 40-45 pounds, but will grow to 90-100 pounds as he reaches adulthood. He just passed his fourth birthday, and may live as long as 60-70 years. Chimps in captivity live much longer than they do in the wild (40-50 years).
I was lucky enough to meet Limbani back in September 2020. I was surprised with how clean and loving he was. With his chief handler never leaving his side, Limbani crawled right into my lap. I was overcome with joy and admiration. I learned how to groom him, and pretended to look for bugs on his back. This put Limbani at ease, and we became fast friends. I fed him grapes one at a time with one hand, but he knew that the bunch of grapes were in my other hand. Smart chimp. By the end of our meeting, Limbani was leading me by the hand around the zoo. We ended our meeting in a huge bear hug. Limbani, you have made me a forever fan.
Another part of the Zoological Wildlife Foundation’s mission is to help children and families in need. As Maria’s father told her on those long ago cozy Sundays, “In the same ways that receive, you have to give.” Maria took this advice. The ZWF works with organizations like Make-A-Wish, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and The Humane Society. Maria, your dad would be proud. As you told me, you want to “share your passion with the whole world.” You’ve done it. And for all of you Limbani fans, be sure to keep tabs on his loveableness @limbanizwf.
Carole Mac is an author, producer, and host of all things food and wine. Her bestselling children’s book The Gift of the Ladybug was inspired by her dearly departed son TJ and has raised over $25K for children with life-threatening illness; her food film Oh My Rødgrød! was selected to appear in the NYC, Chicago and Devour Food Film Festivals; she has regular columns in Lapalme and Retreat magazines; and her latest series Somm School Insider appears on Wine4Food.com, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, BINGE Networks, and ROKU. She has been featured on ABC, CBS, NBC, USA TODAY, GLAMOUR SA, and Thrive Global. When she isn’t eating, drinking, or filming, she enjoys being active in the outdoors, cycling, hanging with family and friends, and hunting down the best bites and sips in New York City. Follow her adventures at CaroleMac.com and @Carole.Mac.