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Primates & Large Mammals
Sierra Leone is blessed with 15 identified species of primates, many of which are protected species and incredibly rare to see, especially in their natural habitat. Must-sees include the chimpanzee, rare pygmy hippo, forest elephant and a variety of monkey species sure to charm the hearts of visitors. Viewing these fascinating primates in their natural habitat is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many travellers, and a highlight on any itinerary.
Sierra Leone’s incredibly diverse habitats, from steamy tropical rainforests to dry savannah, provide an ideal home for many different species. The best way to view as many as possible is to visit the country’s national parks and reserves, prioritising parks where you’re most likely to spot your favourite species.
Chimpanzees, the country’s largest primate, can be spotted across the country with the largest density in the Loma Mountains. For example, a two-day hike on Mount Bintumani in the Loma Mountain region will reward you with plenty of sightings as will touring the Kambui Hills.
Head to the 350,000 hectare, Gola Forest to marvel at 49 mammal species, including the pygmy hippo, zebra duiker, forest elephant and the world’s second-largest population of the western chimpanzee in this biodiverse hotspot.
A must-visit is the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, nestled in the rainforest in the Western Area Peninsula National Park. Here, visitors can learn how the sanctuary rescues orphaned chimps and runs various conservation education and outreach programmes to protect the species’ natural habitats. Nestled in northern Sierra Leone, the Outamba-Kilimi National Park’s woodland savannah is home to chimpanzee, colobus monkey, sooty mangabey and hippos. River canoe safaris are a favourite way to explore the park.
Spotting the rare and highly endangered pygmy hippo is a highlight of any wildlife lover’s visit. Pygmy hippos can be viewed at various reserves such as the Sileti Substation in Gola South and Tiwai Island.
Keep your eyes peeled for the gentle giants, forest elephants as well as chimpanzees in the Kangari Hills Forest Reserve, one of the only remaining Upper Guinean forest ecosystems in the country.
Diverse monkey species can be seen hanging about in the canopy of trees that blanket some of the most scenic mountainous regions. Spot Diana monkeys and several species of colobus monkey at Sileti Substation, the small red-haired western red colobus monkey that primarily lives in the higher canopy in the Loma Mountains and Diana monkeys in Kangari Hills Forest Reserve. The tropical rainforest, Western Area Peninsula National Park is a sanctuary for red colobus monkeys, black-and-white colobus monkeys, sooty mangabeys and Diana monkeys, and even elusive leopards that hide in the park’s hills.