Great Ape sanctuaries may be the lifeboats of survival as wilds disappear
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary- Sierra Leone
Nestled in the forest above the bustling city of Freetown, Tacugama is a safe haven for chimpanzees in need
Of the most forward thinking primate sanctuaries is Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, located in the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Founded in 1995 by Bala Amarasekaran, Tacugama has taken on an impressive multi-tiered approach to safeguarding their own rescued chimpanzees and working to protect the few remaining in the lush Sierra Leonean forests. Tacugama combines field research and forest patrol teams, strong education and outreach programs, onsite eco-lodges and a strong media presence to bring together different stakeholders to build a brighter future for the chimpanzee (which was recently declared Sierra Leone’s National Animal thanks to TCS’s efforts on their behalf).
In Pictures — Life behind the scenes in Yayasan IAR
Mama Posseh, the resident surrogate mother, cares for each of the orphaned babies as though they were her own until they are able to be bonded within another group onsite. She has raised over half of the chimps that now call Tacugama home.
It takes a village...to raise a chimpanzee. Dr Pizarro and Mama Posseh (quarantine caretaker) keep a close eye on the new arrivals to monitor for injuries and sickness that can pass to other chimpanzees.
At Tacugama, not all chimpanzees can be moved to the vet clinic for health checks. Dr. Pizarro and the team are well trained in performing these procedures safely and quickly to get the chimps back to their families.
Dr Andrea Pizarro, resident veterinarian, performs a health check and replaces hormonal birth control implant on one of the sanctuary's adult females, with dedicated caretakers to lend a hand.
Tacugama perched on a ridge in the tropical rainforest above the bustling capital city Freetown. The sanctuary and (now) National Park safeguard the water catchment for over 100,000 people.
In the semi-wild enclosures, older chimps have a chance to climb, forage, and build day nests, much as they would in the wild.
After completing their 90 day quarantine period, orphaned chimps are matched up in new social groups based on age and temperament.
It doesn't take long for orphaned arrivals to learn the ropes and that a little bit of begging can get them ground nuts and other treats.