As part of its Christmas activities lined up, 37 vulnerable children (15 boys, 22 girls) from HAPPY KIDS and Adolescents, spent a day out with the Chimps at the Tacugama Chimp Sanctuary on December 23, 2019. The Director at Tacugama, Bala Amarasekaran has during a conducted tour for 37 vulnerable children from Happy Kids explained to them that, Tacugama is not a Zoo, but a sanctuary for rescued chimpanzees. “Before now Sierra Leone had over 55,000 Western species of chimps and this number has dwindled very fast over the years, as a result of poaching to be sold abroad to Zoos and also killed to be sold as bush meat”, Bala disclosed. He said with the declaration in 2019 of the western chimp as Sierra Leone’s National Animal, “Government through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture should be more proactive to promote internal tourism and also to capacitate the sanctuary to be more effective in terms of the chimps welfare and to increase the presence of forest rangers in national forest reserves in order to put an end to poaching and forest depletion”. Bala Amarasekaran a Ceylonese by birth and a Sierra Leonean by naturalization revealed that surveys in 2010 shows that the number of chimps has reduced drastically to about 5,500 making them critically endangered. “If East Africa and South Africa are making efforts to protect the chimp with stiffer penalties, we can do it here in Sierra Leone”, he stressed.
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The Tacugama chimp sanctuary was established in 1995 to protect orphaned or traumatized chimps who after rehabilitation, should be released to the wild. Unfortunately, Bala disclosed, since 1995 when the sanctuary started with the first rescued chimp (King Bruno) the sanctuary was unable to release rescued or rehabilitated chimps and the number of chimps presently at the sanctuary is 94. “We cannot release them to the wild as a result of continued poaching of an ape that is 98.6% genetically similar to humans, and it is costing the administration huge sums to care for both the young and adult chimps.” King Bruno, the first rescued chimp and 30 others, on 23rd April 2006 escaped by breaking open one of the enclosures, and escaping to the wild. Several months after the incident 27 out of the 31 escaped chimps returned to the sanctuary on their own. Unfortunately, Bruno, Charlie Boy, Toko and Sabie have since not returned. The visiting children were treated to picture coloring interesting, and taken through the different stages from incubation (Quarantine), rehabilitation to integration. The older children were allowed to feed fruits and vegetables to some of the chimps as a Christmas gesture, and in appreciation the chimps did their jungle dance.
By Ade Campbell
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