On one of my trips to visit hubby in Sierra Leone we explored around the sprawling city of Freetown and heard from the locals about the chimp sanctuary high up in the hills. My daughter was excited – she wanted to visit. So we set out to find it. The trip there in itself is quite a bit of an experience as you travel through dust trodden streets littered with old wooden houses high up on the hills. The travel is slow going so enjoy the ride. It is all part of the experience.
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary is tucked away in the threatened Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserves on the edge of Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone. The sanctuary spans about 100 acres (+- 40 hectares) of lush indigenous rain forests.
In 1995 Bala Amarasekaran felt in his heart the desire, and had the vision, to rescue, confiscate and rehabilitate chimps of Sierra Leone that were in trouble. So he abandoned his original career as an accountant and started up Tacugama. Today the sanctuary take care of about 90 chimps with the help of a dedicated staff as well as volunteers from all over the world. Much work is also done in the community through education and legal enforcement as it is illegal to hunt, capture, kill or in any way keep chimpanzees in Sierra Leone.
For the staff at the sanctuary each rescued chimp becomes like family and has a story to tell like mischievous Kouze who was owned by a Russian peacekeeping officer of the United Nations. He saw it fit that Kouze share his vodka and UN rations. With some great difficulties Kouze was eventually brought to the centre in good health (living on the UN rations). Through the adoption program that is run by Tacugama naughty Kouze can currently enjoy a healthy diet and more natural living conditions. An adoption program via Tacugama’s website is available to improve conditions for Kouze and his mates. So please visit www.tacugama.com to learn more about the program.
In an ongoing research project in the area camera traps had been placed at various spots throughout the Park. Great was the excitement when the images were collected and a rare tree pangolin was spotted. Sadly it carries the status of “vulnerable” on the data species list due to bushmeat hunting and the demand on international markets. I hope this special guy will not run into that kind of trouble!
Another interesting animal that was captured is the shy Black Duiker which became rare due to over-hunting. Fortunately they are very adaptable animals and can live well in degraded habitats.
The sanctuary also runs an eco lodge to generate much needed funds to look after the chimps. The lodge is situated within the protected area and have breathtaking views over the hills surrounding Freetown.
At the time of my visit daily tours at the sanctuary started at 10:30 and 16:00 and lasted about 1.5 hour. The cost of the tour for Sierra Leonean nationals were SLL20 000 and all other visitors SLL75 000 or USD15 for adults and USD5 for children. Take note that all tours are strictly by appointment only so please phone ahead and make arrangements and arrive in good time. The sanctuary can be contacted on: +232(0)44625107 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was yet another unplanned smiley 🙂 added to my travel bucket on a road less traveled!
You can also follow Tacugama on Twitter (@Tacugama) and find them on Facebook (Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary).
“People don’t take trips – trips take people.”