Did you know that chimpanzees are Sierra Leone’s national animals? Our country has a healthy chimpanzee population, measuring approximately 5500 individuals across the country, according to the latest census.
Chimpanzees are still an endangered species – population across the continent has dwindled to about one tenth of what it was a century ago, because of a combination of habitat loss and poaching. Every year, a number of chimpanzees are orphaned or injured, victims of hunting, road traffic accidents or the illegal pet trade.
This is where Tacugama comes in, Sierra Leone’s largest and oldest chimpanzee sanctuary, founded in 1988 by Bala and Sharmila Amarasekaran. The couple were travelling outside Freetown when they saw an injured baby chimpanzee on sale in a village. Unable to just leave him there, Bala and Sharmila bought him, named him Bruno, and raised him in their home for one year.
Bruno’s rescue was the first of many, and the inspiration behind the opening of Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, now housed in a secluded location on the hills of the Freetown Peninsula. Over the years hundreds of chimps have been rescued and rehabilitated at Tacugama, and many have been released into the wild around Sierra Leone, contributing to the preservation of the wild chimpanzee population.
Tacugama could not survive without the help of visitors and volunteers, and over the last decade it has grown into a popular tourist attraction. Let’s have a look at 5 great reasons to visit Tacugama – starting with the most obvious one!