The first eight months of 2012 has seen Tacugama receiving eight new orphan chimpanzees, the last 5 of which have arrived in less than two months putting our quarantine team at full stretch. In the whole of 2011, just 4 chimps came through our doors. We’ve also been told of another two older chimps being held captive in the provinces but right now we have our hands full coping with the recent arrivals, most of whom are less than 2 years old.
As regular readers of our blog will know, Tacugama has been at full capacity for the last two years – in 2010 for the first time ever we had to refuse entry to some new chimps due to a lack of space. Throughout this year we have been working hard to construct new night dens and enclosures that will enable us to continue to undertake our law enforcement role and still ensure that the chimps in our care can enjoy a healthy environment and live in as close to a natural environment as possible. Knowing that this extra space will soon be available has helped us to deal with this influx of arrivals.
The harsh fact associated with these arrivals is that for these 8 arrivals probably between another 40 -80 chimps will have been killed in Sierra Leone, victims of habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and bushmeat hunting; these infants are the by-product. It is clear that we need to urgently expand our pilot programme working with rural communities across the country to develop their guardianship for their environment and the wildlife that surrounds them.
We’ve already introduced you to Nico, who arrived in a very poor condition in January. Considering that at one point we feared he would lose his right arm due the the injury he sustained, we’re pleased to report that he’s recovering amazingly well and can now use his arm and hand quite well.
Our next arrival in March was Mortes – he’s about 1.5 years old and came from one of the principle diamond mining areas in the country – Kono. Held by one of the local workers at a small diamond mine for 3 months he finally asked them for help when caring for Mortes became too time-consuming. They contacted Tacugama and brought Mortes on a 5-hour car journey to the sanctuary. He’s settled in well, passed his quarantine period of 90 days and has now been introduced to Sara and AJ.
A few days after Mortes arrived, we were brought a very young chimp – Jibo – who was around 5 weeks old. It was claimed he had been found lying abandoned in the bush – a very unlikely event. Poor Jibo was carrying an infection and despite our best efforts he died within a few days of arriving at Tacugama.
Mid-June saw Ringo arrive. He’d been found in a remote part of south-west of Sierra Leone and reported to us by the government’s District Forest Officer who arranged the confiscation and brought him to Freetown. Ringo is almost 4 years old and had been kept captive for a couple of years before he was uncovered. He’s a calm, happy chimp and is progressing well through his quarantine period.
Just a week after the arrival of Ringo, staff of one of the mining support companies, RACEC Africa, brought Whinnie to us. Just about 1.5 years old, she was seen by the roadside in Port Loko district. The staff explained the law to the community and obtained their permission to bring the chimp to Tacugama. Whinnie’s small size belies her huge appetite!
Ten days later saw Hashi arrive at Tacugama’s gates. Also around 1.5 years old, she came from the north-east of Sierra Leone. Since the beginning of the year she’d been cared for by a family in Freetown on behalf of another relative. News had been spreading of our work to confiscate another chimp (see more below) and as Hashi’s carer was a policewoman she began to fear discovery and so voluntarily brought her to the sanctuary. Although clearly devastated to have to give her up, she acknowledged that it was the right thing to do despite a last minute call from the relative to ask us if he could take Hashi back when he returned to Sierra Leone in September! He received a short and clear answer….
Just a week later as our programme manager, Frankie, was driving to the sanctuary she was stopped by some small children who reported that they had a chimp for sale and led her to the family holding the chimp. Yet another small chimp – only about a year old – was tied in their small compound. The family had brought the chimp from the north-east just two days previously and were surprised that news had already spread. The senior member of the family was absent and to remove the chimp immediately would have caused many problems for the children. Several phone calls and meetings later Tetani was handed over by the family, full of cold. He’s been under close veterinary supervision and is slowly regaining his health.
The most recent chimp to arrive at Tacugama is Lola, who again is around 1.5 years old. She first came to our attention at the beginning of May when we started to receive many calls from the expatriate community who were seeing Lola playing in a beauty salon and casino operated by a Chinese national. Our initial request to the owner to hand over the chimp met with a negative response and we had to exercise some patience to allow government procedures to take their course. Tacugama worked closely with the Government of Sierra Leone on this case to make sure that the wildlife laws were understood and upheld. Lola was finally brought to Tacugama last Saturday.
As you can imagine our resources are being stretched to their limits as we cope with the new arrivals, build the new dens and enclosures and also look for grants that will allow us to develop our community outreach work and so reduce the problems at their source. If you can help please follow this link to go to the donations page on our website, thank you for your support. We’ll keep you up to date on how our new chimps are doing and bring you more news on Gaura and others that you’ve been asking us about.