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Celebrating our closest relative…

Celebrating our closest relative…

Tacugama joins the world to celebrate man’s closest relative – the chimpanzee (Pan Troglodytes).

Since 2018, July 14th is set aside annually to raise public awareness on the importance of protecting and saving the incredibly unique and iconic species. In Sierra Leone, this day is of great significance as it is the only country to have the chimpanzee as its National Animal. In 2009, Tacugama’s Outreach team conducted a national census and concluded that there are approximately 5,500 chimpanzees remaining in the wild in Sierra Leone. The census also confirmed that a significant number of chimpanzees live outside protected areas leaving them more completely vulnerable.

Since 1995, Tacugama continues to overcome deforestation, poaching and encroachment to ensure the protection of the species and prevent the chimpanzees from extinction. These irreplaceable animals are critically endangered meaning if actions are not taken to protect their population and habitats they would be lost or wiped out completely from the country.  For 25 years, the sanctuary has been working with communities across Sierra Leone to ensure human/wildlife co-existence. Tacugama continues to educate visitors and students on the importance of having chimps in the wild and their similarities to humans.  These amazing animals play a vital role to maintain the rich biodiversity of the country. With the disappearance of chimpanzees and their seed dispersal functions, our forests in Sierra Leone would also slowly start disappearing – jeopardizing our water catchments and food security.

July 14th can be traced back to the first day the famous primatologist, Dr Jane Goodall visited present day Gombe in Tanzania. She was the first individual to have studied the behaviour of wild chimpanzees extensively. In Sierra Leone, the founder and Director of Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Bala Amarasekaran, has walked in the steps of Dr Jane Goodall and provided a safe haven for rescued chimpanzees. Sadly despite Bala’s heroics, orphan chimpanzees continue to end up at the country’s only sanctuary as a result of hunting, illegal logging and the pet trade a by-product of the Bushmeat crisis. These are just a few of the many threats faced by wild chimpanzees in Sierra Leone.   

Sierra Leone was once a major exporter of live chimpanzees across the world. At the moment, animals such as chimpanzees are hunted and killed in even protected areas for various reasons including commercial Bushmeat trade. Animal parts are smoked making it extremely difficult to identify the animal and of course easier for transport. However, border security personnel should be trained in identifying animal species if we are to tackle wildlife trade. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, huge amounts of smoked wildlife were being trafficked from Sierra Leone to Bo Waterside. The local immigration office admitted to seeing the evidence and stated that security personnel from Sierra Leone turned a blind eye. In 2017, Tacugama conducted a month-long campaign from Bandajuma to Bo Waterside against Bushmeat consumption and the illegal wildlife trade. It was evidently clear that chimpanzee meat was amongst the species traded.  

Time is not our side, chimpanzees continue to suffer and end up in human homes as pets. It is sad to note that although the chimpanzees that end up at the sanctuary for rehabilitation are well taken care of – they are all robbed of their freedom and will spend their entire lives in captivity. Meanwhile, well-designed law enforcement protocols and a repeal of the 1972 wildlife Act are necessary to put an end to wildlife trade and ultimately ending the hunting and killing of chimpanzees – Sierra Leone’s National animal. Furthermore, there should be a ban on domestic wildlife trade focus on protecting endangered and critically endangered species as listed by the IUCN.  Habitat restoration will also provide a home for chimpanzees and animals in the wild to thrive and maintain the ecosystem’s balance we humans so much depend on. 

Let’s celebrate chimpanzees by protecting their homes and stop hunting, killing, possessing, trading, capturing or buying/selling them!

It is our responsibility to react, protect and preserve them.

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