This week witnessed a proud occasion for Tacugama as we were able to present the full report for the Sierra Leone National Chimpanzee Census Project to key national stakeholders at a workshop held on 15 and 16 September. The workshop ensured that the survey findings were disseminated to an important audience including representatives from government, conservation organisations and educational institutes.
The formal opening of the workshop
The workshop was chaired by Professor Karim, head of biological sciences at Fourah Bay College (Sierra Leone and West Africa’s oldest university); opening statements came from the Sierra Leone Environmental Protection Agency, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Local Government and Rural Development with a key note address from the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security. As well as a detailed presentation of the survey results, the attendees were presented with case studies on community co-management of forests, offset conservation for the Loma Mountains in Sierra Leone and how the conservation of gorillas in Rwanda is being supported through eco-tourism. There were many questions and lively discussions as the information was shared.
Bala responds to questions raised
The second day saw participants really taking ownership of the threat to chimpanzees in Sierra Leone and it was an important milestone in the history of their protection when the workshop overwhelmingly supported the proposal that chimpanzees should become a national emblem for Sierra Leone. We will now pursue the delivery of a presidential declaration to confirm this crucial proposal which should significantly increase the conservation profile for the species.
Working groups then formed to tackle objectives and identify actions in the areas of legal frameworks, community engagement, education, research & awareness, national & international engagement & collaboration, and value creation.
One of the breakout groups tackles national and international collaboration…
… and another, community engagement
We were extremely impressed at the energy, thought and commitment that over 40 people expressed during the two days. The workshop has really demonstrated that the completion of the census has kick-started the next phase for Tacugama’s work in conserving chimpanzees in Sierra Leone. The actions identified through the sessions will not be easy to accomplish but the journey has started and with the support we have gained through the workshop will certainly keep us motivated on the way.
Presenting the outputs from the education and research group …
… and from the value creation team (looking at how chimpanzee conservation can be funded)
We are extremely grateful to all of the participants and especially the Forestry Division and our workshop facilitator Eugene Cole for making the workshop so productive and marking an important step forward for the protection of chimpanzees.
The full survey report will be available to download from our website before the end of September, together with the workshop output. We are very hopeful that we will be able to follow up the action planning process by hosting a chimpanzee population habitat and viability assessment workshop in Sierra Leone early in 2011. With the support of international conservation organisations this should result in a robust conservation action plan that will strengthen the chances for wild chimpanzee survival in Sierra Leone.