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4,000 Chimpanzees found in Sierra Leone …Tacugama Survey Reveals

4,000 Chimpanzees found in Sierra Leone …Tacugama Survey Reveals

The wild chimpanzee population in Sierra Leone is found to have been be doubled as Sierra Leone National Chimpanzee Census offers new hope for the survival of the endangered western chimpanzee.

The Tacugama chimpanzee sanctuary which organized a world chimpanzee population survey has published a report which states that Sierra Leone presently have 4,000 chimpanzees in our forest according to Dr. Terry Breis who is the scientific project manager of the Sierra Leone National Chimpanzee Census project. This report was issued out on 1st June 2010 at the Ministry of Agriculture at  the Youyi building Freetown.

Twice as many wild chimpanzees exist in Sierra Leone than previously thought, according to preliminary findings of the first comprehensive national chimpanzee sanctuary.

The survey result reveals that the wild chimpanzee population stands at approximately 4,000 individuals, whereas previous estimates suggested only half this figure. The survey has also determined almost half of these chimpanzees are surviving in highly threatened and marginal habitats outside of the country have protected forest reserves. These results confirm that Sierra Leone still hosts a significant population of the endangered western chimpanzee.

Chair of the IUCN/SSC private specialist group, Dr. Russ Mittermeier commented “it is extremely valuable to have such sound, scientific data. These results provide some very encouraging news about the chimpanzee population in Sierra Leone in contrast to many other parts of West Africa. It is imperative that protection should be established for those significant populations that have been found outside existing reserves.

Tacugama Chimps

Tacugama Chimps

These results offers hope for the long term survival of the Western chimpanzee, but also highlight the significant threats that this flagship species face in Sierra Leone. With the country’s push to develop and eliminate poverty, habitat is being rapidly lost to logging mining and farming, pushing chimpanzees into direct conflict with communities as they strive for survival.

While the higher than expected numbers are good news, these results do not mean that chimpanzee numbers are increasing in Sierra Leone. More that 70% of people interviewed during the survey declared that they see fewer chimpanzees now than several years ago. 

Bala Amara Sekaren, Director of Tacugama chimpanzee sanctuary said that the work of the sanctuary and the government arms embargo have ensured that chimpanzee have not vanished altogether. “For fifteen years we have been working hard to eradicate the pet trade, promote law enforcement and educate citizens that it is illegal to hunt and kill chimpanzees and our findings confirm that we are making progress”, Amara Sekaren said, “with increasing economic and development pressures we now need to ensure that the survey results contribute to urgent and sustainable conservation action that recognizes the needs of both people and wild life.”

Field work began in January 2009 and the survey has been the first systematic, nationwide survey ever undertaken in Sierra Leone to establish the status of the most endangered if Africa’s four chimpanzee sub species. The previous estimate from 1980 considered population in protected only.

The national chimpanzee census project was conceived and co-ordinated by Tacugama, with support from the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) and endorsed by the government of Sierra Leone (GOSL). The field research team, led by Dr. Terry Brecia, worked intensively across Sierra Leone and interviewed almost 800 communities and surveyed around 670km of transect on foot. As well as collecting details on chimpanzees, habitat quality and human impact have been documented; significant data have been captured for other large mammal species that include evidence of first elephant in the centre of Sierra Leone.

The head of the conservation and wildlife management unit, forestry division of the ministry of agriculture forestry and food security, Kate M.B. Garmett, welcomed implementing the survey has been a key priority for Tacugama, which marks 15 years of operations this year the result allow the sanctuary to move forward and address the root cause issues that result in the anvil of chimpanzee orphans at its gates

Finally Tacugama sanctuary enforces the lows protecting chimpanzees in Sierra Leone and cares for 100 confiscated and abandoned chimpanzees at the sanctuary close to Freetown. Founded in 1995, Tacugama operates education, community development, field research, conservation and ecotourism projects to address the root cause issues that threaten the survival of chimpanzees and their habitat in Sierra Leone.

Sie Sall, SEM

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