As well as caring for confiscated chimps at the sanctuary, Tacugama also works to protect wild chimpanzees and their habitats in Sierra Leone.
The Sierra Leone National Chimpanzee Census (SLNCCP) completed by Tacugama in 2010 showed that over half of the wild chimpanzees in Sierra Leone are living outside of protected areas. In many of these areas the natural forest habitat is being lost as a result of activities such as logging, agriculture & mining bringing chimpanzees closer to human settlements. Wild chimps are trying to adapt to survive in these changing environments but this can bring problems when they raid farm crops to replace forest foods that are no longer available. Human-wildlife conflict is an increasing problem and in late 2011 Tacugama started pilot projects in some affected communities. These projects are working with the communities to provide alternative livelihoods and create guardianship for the wild chimpanzees still living in the area.
We have recently started a research project to study the wild chimps in two of these communities.
The project, led by Rosa Garriga, is being implemented in the Moyamba district and consists of two parts: community interviews and a camera trap study. The interviews aim to gain more information about crop losses due to animals and the role chimpanzees play in these losses. They also help the research team to determine the areas where wild chimpanzees are active and so where camera traps should be set.
The first field trip in December involved 50 interviews in 10 villages and placing 16 camera traps. These are remotely activated cameras that are equipped with motion sensors and take pictures only if something is moving past. The analysis of the interviews and the photos captured will be shared with the communities to help with generating ideas as to how human-chimpanzee / human-wildlife conflict can be resolved.
The team are now back in Moyamba to undertake further interviews and reposition the cameras. Hopefully we’ll have captured some interesting photos that we’ll be able to share with you in future blogs. We are grateful for the support that we’ve received for developing and analysing the questionnaires from Tatyana Humle and the Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent in the UK. This important project has been made possible thanks to grants from Barcelona Zoo, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and Lush Cosmetics.