Sierra Leone has begun its first comprehensive census of wild chimpanzees, the head of the country’s largest sanctuary for the primates said on Monday.
“It will cost 220,000 dollars (167,000 euros) and run for approximately 10 months,” Balla Amarasekaran, head of the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, said. Amarasekaran explained that the chimp count would help answer key questions about the population and the habitat of the great apes in Sierra Leone and could even set the stage for reintroductions. “It is estimated that no more than 2,000 chimpanzees currently reside in Sierra Leone’s forests but that number was culled from an informal survey carried out in 1981,” he told AFP.
Amarasekaran, whose sanctuary on the outskirts of Freetown is the largest in Sierra Leone, said the impact of the country’s ruinous civil war and the rapid destruction of forest cover had led some experts to fear that chimpanzees could cease to exist in the wild within 50 years.