Pangolin and other great animals caught on camera trap

A few days ago our outreach team collected the camera traps that they had placed in Western Area Peninsula National Park six weeks earlier.
The cameras had captured some very interesting images.
For the first time we had been able to catch a tree pangolin on the cameras. The pangolin is a very special scaly nocturnal animal, which lives mainly of termites and ants. Despite the name Tree pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) this species of pangolin is equally at home in trees and on the ground. Unfortunately the tree pangolin’s status is “vulnerable” and the species is declining in number due to bushmeat hunting and demand on the international markets, as the scales are used as traditional medication both in Africa and Asia. In krio, the local language here, the pangolin is called “shame beef” as it will roll up and hide its head, when caught by a hunter. We hope this one will never be caught by a hunter but only by our camera traps.

Pangolin

Another interesting animal which was captured on the cameras is the Black Duiker Cephalophus niger. It is a rare duiker, which suffers from overhunting. They are very adaptable animals and can live well in degraded habitats.

Black duiker

We also found this great picture of a group of Sooty Mangabeys (Cercocebus atys) on the traps. The sooty mangabey is still widespread in West Africa and is not threatened, despite being easy to trap due to their ground-foraging habits. We often see groups of them near Tacugama, though they don’t come near the chimpanzees.

Mangabey
Lastly, we had several pictures of chimpanzees with youngsters. It is great to see that the small population of Western Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) living in the Western Area are reproducing well. During the National Chimpanzee Census Project, carried out by Tacugama in 2009-2010, it was estimated that the Western Area National Park holds a population of up to 55 individuals of chimpanzees. It would be interesting to repeat the study and find out if the population has increased over the last five years.

Chimp with baby

Sources: http://www.iucnredlist.org and “The Kingdon Field Guide To African Mammals” by Jonathan Kingdon.

Bala visits the Ebola Heroes

As this terrible Ebola crisis begins to fade away, I decided to visit the front line to see the important and dangerous work undertaken by many local and international health workers.

EB WASH2

It was a hair rising experience! I was touched by the dedication and commitment shown by every individual at the Port Loko Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) run by “Goal”, an international organization helping Sierra Leone to fight this epidemic.

EB Bala

 

These people are confronting death on a daily basis and it is not easy to stand up to these dangers and stigmas to server your fellow humans.
I was so happy and humbled being with them and to feel the spirit of caring, commitment, dedications and selflessness. I felt so small in front of these heroes.

Bala

Ebola survivor Mohamed now works as a nurse at the treatment centre.

Ebola – still not defeated

While many Western media have stopped their regular reports on the Ebola situation, we cannot. The fact is that Ebola is still around in Sierra Leone. Tuesday the new confirmed cases were 14.

Ebola Numbers

This week, the Government announced that the proposed opening of the schools at the end of March would be postponed. Sierra Leone is not ready yet.

We, at Tacugama, were hoping to follow the schools opening, and reopen the sanctuary for visitors at the end of March. However, after a few weeks with an increase in new confirmed cases, we have decided to keep the sanctuary closed for now. We still cannot take the risk for the staff or for the chimpanzees. This means another period with no regular income. Even if we are able to open in April or May, the rainy season will start very soon, so we would only receive very few visitors to the lodges and to the sanctuary during that period anyway.

So even if the Western media have forgotten about Sierra Leone and the Ebola crisis, please do not forget about us. We still need to feed more than 80 chimps every day and pay each of our 30 staff their salary every month. Any donation, big or small, is greatly appreciated and much needed. Please help us get through the last stretch of this crisis. Hopefully the end to it is near!

http://www.tacugama.com/how-you-can-help

Mama Posseh’s new house is taking shape!

Last year in April we posted following about Mama Posseh’s tragedy when her house burnt down. She sadly lost her life partner, who was not able to escape the home on time. http://tacugama.wildlifedirect.org/2014/04/01/mama-possehs-personal-tragedy/
To try to help at least a little bit, by finding a way to help rebuild her home, we set up our ‘Mama Posseh appeal’ to raise funds for the materials and labour. Many of you, both in Sierra Leone and abroad, made very generous donations to the fund, which was heartwarming. Small and large amounts came in through our international bank accounts and in cash. One day, a young boy showed up at the sanctuary with an envelope stuffed full of leones (the local currency) that his father had sent him to come deliver! Old volunteers chipped in, people who stayed at the lodges and remembered Posseh fondly, as well as supporters who had never met her but who had been touched by her story. After some delay due to the Ebola outbreak and arranging permits, the build of her new dwelling has now started to take shape.

The house is taking shape.

The house is taking shape.

 

From the house, in Bathurst Village, Mama Posseh will have the view of the mountain where Tacugama is situated and she will easily be able to walk to work.

Mama Posseh laying the first cement.

Mama Posseh laying the first cement.

Mama Posseh is extremely grateful for all the donations, and she frequently expressed her wonder and delight as we told her about the people all over the world lending her a hand. Now that the foundation has been completed and the walls are starting to rise, the whole village is taking an interest and many are helping with the work. She feels very gratified and is looking forward to having her own spot again!
Many thanks to all who, we were so pleased with the support!

All Posseh's grand children are following the construction.

All Posseh’s grand children are following the construction.

Tacugama just got SMARTer

Tacugama is very happy to announce that we have just partnered with the chimp-loving mobile company SMART Mobile here in Sierra Leone.
We made an exception and invited SMART to come and visit Tacugama, though we are officially closed. SMART fell in love with Tacugama after meeting the chimps and seeing all what we do. SMART will provide us with free sim cards and VPN’s to the staff making communication much more efficient here.

They will also participate in our conservation sensitization campaigns, by sending out sms chains with conservation messages through their mobile network .
In the future SMART will help us get our conservation messages through by sponsoring signboards and radio education programmes.
We are very excited about this new cooperation and grateful that SMART understands the importance of chimp conservation.
We will of course encourage all our visitors to patronize this new venture in Sierra Leone.

SMART blog

Manager Sofie and Director Bala are both happy about the new cooperation.

Tom – finally making chimpanzee friends

Tom is a chimpanzee of about 30 years old. He has spent most of his life as a pet in a private home. Tom was rescued and arrived at Tacugama almost a year ago.

He spent his first months here in the quarantine section. Then he was transferred to a  den close to some of the other chimpanzees. Here Tom could start to reacquire his chimpanzee skills and behaviors, which he had lost being alone for so many years, by looking at the others chimpanzees. Tom didn’t pay too much attention to the other chimps, but was very focused on people passing by the dens.

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Tom also has to learn how to eat chimpanzee food again. Here he is trying a grass straw.

Later Tom was transferred to the night dens of “Gorilla’s group” to start his socialization process with his future family group. Gorilla is the alpha male of the group, followed by Zack and Salva. There are also two females in the group: Blama and Sunny.

We decided to integrate Tom in this group because of the small number of animals but also as Gorilla is a big but gentle chimp who with time could help Tom become a chimpanzee again. In the first step of socialization Tom was kept inside one den and the others were allowed to come inside during the day to visit him through a double layer of net. He initially was quite scared and often screamed and shouted during the day,  but after few weeks the care staff were very surprised to see Tom starting interacting with both with Gorilla and Salva, grooming them through the mesh.

In the last two months, we have started the real integration, allowing Tom direct contact with Salva, to create a good alliance between them. We started the process with Salva as he, being a young chimpanzee, could help to show Tom how to play. The first day they met each other they were both a bit cautious and didn’t dare to touch each other and when they did, they both got a bit scared. But slowly they got to know each other and now, Salva and Tom play all day long. Once in a while Tom has to take a break though. He is an old man and not used to all this activity.

It is very touching to hear them play and laugh. Tom has wasted so many years of his life being alone in a cage, and finally, in his senior years, he can enjoy life with other chimps, like he was supposed to. In the next weeks we will be planning to start the integration with Gorilla. Hopefully Tom and Gorilla will create a strong bond, which is important as Gorilla is the alpha male of the group. Tom needs to be accepted by Gorilla as it will make it easier for Tom to be accepted by the other chimps in the group. We have to do the integration very slowly, but cannot wait for the day that Tom will be able to go outside with his group in the big forested enclosure.

We will continue to update you on Tom’s progress in the following weeks.

RIP Grant

We have some sad news to share with all of you.

Saturday afternoon when the keepers were letting the chimps in Joko’s group inside, they noticed that Grant was not there. Grant has recently had some health problems, and it is very unusual for him not to come inside, so we were all immediately concerned. However, he had been seen at the last feeding an hour earlier, and had looked bright and was eating well at that time.

Joko’s group lives in a big forested enclosure with a thick cover of bushes under the trees. Despite our whole team looking for Grant, we could not find him in the enclosure and it started getting dark. During the night our keepers took turns in going to the enclosure and checking if Grant would have come out of the forest, but unfortunately he did not.

As soon as the sun rose the day after, the team started the search for Grant again, but with little hope that he would be found alive, since he had now not been seen for more than 12 hours. He was found and our worst fears were confirmed; he had passed away.

We continue to investigate the possible cause of seizure, ataxia and some deaths at Tacugama over the years. Findings so far has narrowed it to an endemic toxic plant and further investigations are being carried out. This is almost certainly what had happened to Grant; his post mortem exam did not point to any other cause of death.

It is already a very difficult time in Sierra Leone and at Tacugama, with the Ebola outbreak still worsening around us. We all try to keep the spirit high and focus on our job of taking care of the chimps. Days like yesterday are tough on the whole team here.

Grant was adored by all and his sudden death was a shock for everyone who knew him. He was very easy to love; sweet and gentle.

Grant blog 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grant’s beautiful amber eyes were so expressive, and he loved to laugh and play. He definitely did not deserve to die this young.

RIP sweet little man. You will always be remembered here as a chimp with a big heart and a loud laughter.

Grant blog

Creative fundraising by star volunteer Jutta

We wanted to give full props to star volunteer Jutta Philipp from Heidelberg. She stayed at Tacugama’s eco-lodges with her partner Chris earlier in the year and they helped freshen up signboards and walking trails around the sanctuary.

Jutta applying fresh paint to Tacugama's signboard

Jutta applying fresh paint to Tacugama’s signboard

Once back in Germany, Jutta did not forget about the sanctuary but started convincing friends to help us out by adopting a chimp. Then, increasingly creative, she organised paid pony rides to raise funds for Tacugama!

FUNdraising by offering pony rides to children!

FUNdraising by offering pony rides to children!

She also let us know she had set up a Music Night with many local acts. The event was free, but featured a ‘Spendenbox’ (Donation box).

The music night featured many local artists from Heidelberg

The music night featured many local artists from Heidelberg

 

The 'Musik Session' in full swing

The ‘Musik Session’ in full swing

The event looks like a lot of fun!

Jutta's partner Chris manning the info booth

Jutta’s partner Chris manning the info booth

As well as the Music Night and the pony rides, Jutta has also raised much needed cash for the chimps by offering massages (at two different physiotherapy practices). We are so impressed by how dedicated and creative she has been in her support to the sanctuary!

Perry: extremely sick at arrival in ’11 & thriving now

A very weak and underweight Perry with iv access in left arm

A very weak and underweight Perry with iv access in left arm

We like to stand still occasionally and realize the progress made by an individual chimp. Perry was one of the smallest and weakest orphans ever received by Tacugama. He arrived in May 2011, very underweight, dehydrated and with skin wounds and a bad chest infection. Luckily, the vets (Dr. Rosa and Dr. Rupak) were able to achieve  iv access to give him more effective antibiotics this way. He also received supplemental oxygen and nebulisation therapy. We were kindly lent the machine by the British doctors at IMATT. See pics below.

Perry held by Dr. Rosa, connected to oxygen concentrator.

Perry held by Dr. Rosa, connected to oxygen concentrator.

Perry received nubulisation treatment during his first weeks at Tacugama

Perry received nubulisation treatment during his first weeks at Tacugama

After a few weeks he started showing improvement, with less coughing and increased appetite. After two months of veterinary care and TLC from Mama Posseh, he was a chubby and happy little fellow!

Two months after arrival, Perry had gotten quite chubby!

Two months after arrival, Perry had gotten quite chubby!

He was initially kept with the other recent arrival, Molly. Over the time, the baby group has increased in size. Perry is now one of the biggest chimps in the group and acts as a kindhearted ‘big brother’ for newer, smaller arrivals who appreciate his protection when they are being integrated in the group.

More than 3 years after arrival, Perry is the biggest chimp in the 'baby group'

More than 3 years after arrival, Perry is the biggest chimp in the ‘baby group’

Perry is a sweet natured 'older brother' for new arrivals now

Perry is a sweet natured ‘older brother’ for new arrivals now

Busy days at Tacugama despite of lock-down

On the third and last day of the lock-down in Sierra Leone, we must say, we are so incredible proud of our team. They all volunteered to camp at Tacugama during the lock-down, in order to make sure that the chimps could be well looked after, even though everyone in Sierra Leone had been asked to stay at home. The team has put lot of effort into keeping the spirit up and all have walked around with a smile on their face.
We have actually had some busy days here, also for the outreach team, who are not directly involved in the care of the chimpanzees, but who all have still come to work every day during the lock-down.
The whole team has set up camera traps near Tacugama’s fences, in order to repeat the study they did a few months ago, that revealed that we had many wild chimpanzees around the sanctuary and even the Endangered Jentink’s duiker.

Camera set
The outreach team has unfortunately also had their hands full destroying an illegal charcoal pit in the buffer zone to the Western Area Peninsular National Park, which surrounds Tacugama. The charcoal pit had destroyed a decent patch of forest, and we discovered it when we spotted smoke coming up from the patch.
Many people in the area around the National Park do not realize that the area has been promoted from Forest Reserve to National Park. It was supposed to be announced by the President at a meeting, but due to the Ebola crisis the meeting has been delayed. The new status of the area means more restrictions on the use of the forest. Just as hunting is banned in the park, charcoal burning is also not allowed.

Charcoal pit
However, the local communities should be aware of the changes, as along the roads leading to the National Park there are signs with the new status and the new restrictions.

SignNP
Hopefully all locals will soon know about and respect the new status, and understand the value of having a beautiful and lush National Park in their back yards.

Valley

Thank you to the outreach team for helping protect the forest and for all the effort you have put into the work during the lock-down.
– And the chimps during the lock down? they have had quite a laid back attitude to the whole thing….Chimps relax