News from Tacugama in Sierra Leone

La Palmyre Zoo has supported the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary since 2008. The sanctuary takes care about orphan chimpanzees while conducting development and awareness activities within local communities.

Despite the worrying situation in recent weeks due to the spread of Ebola virus in West Africa, including Sierra Leone, the sanctuary is continuing its activities with energy and dedication.
These last few months, the use of camera traps has been intensified in various study areas in order to collect data on wild chimpanzees living in human-degraded habitats as well as to determine the distribution and abundance of large and medium mammals. Another aim was to map the vegetation landscape. Data are currently being analyzed.

The sanctuary has also completed a new important project: the implementation of poultry farming in 6 communities of the Moyamba district. By providing people with such alternative livelihoods, the sanctuary hopes to reduce the consumption of bush meat and thus to protect the wild chimpanzees and other endangered species of the region. Six chicken houses have been constructed by using local materials and traditional knowledge of communities who supported with great enthusiasm this initiative.

Education is also a priority for Tacugama, often using recreational activities. This time footballs were also distributed to every community provided that they commit to protect the environment and to respect basic hygiene rules explained by Tacugama's team. Football matches between communities were then organized. This is part of Tacugama's environmental protection awareness campaign, hoping to bring individuals together to conserve their habitat and implement hygiene practices to help reduce diseases within the communities.
An assessment of the perception of conservation messages in several schools located around the reserve has also been carried out. The children were asked to draw what they think of when they hear the word "chimpanzee" and to answer some questions about their drawings. Then they watched a film about chimpanzees before performing the same drawing and answering the same questions. This experiment is expected to show an evolution in their attitudes and knowledge of chimps as a result of the film.

As of the chimps rehabilitation work, a young female named Kortu was rescued in December 2013 from employees of an oil palm plantation. After a quarantine period and somewhat difficult beginnings with the young chimps of the nursery, Kortu seems to have well acclimated to her new environment and friends as she has been "adopted" by two older chimpanzees. Another female called Fina and born at the sanctuary in 2012 fell seriously ill in March after bacterial meningitis. She has to be separated from her mother to receive her treatment. Her condition remained at concern for several weeks but she eventually recovered and was reunited with her mother 2 months and a half after their separation, thanks to the dedicated work of an experienced staff member.

Our thoughts go out to the teams of the sanctuary who perform a remarkable work every day and whose current situation remains of great concern due to the Ebola threat.