Category Archives: Chimpanzee

TUSK Trust Supports Western Area Peninsula National Park Protection

Our Patrol Guards help to dismantle and confiscate snares to protect the wildlife

Our Patrol Guards help to dismantle and confiscate snares to protect the wildlife

Tacugama Community Outreach Programme has received generous support from the Tusk Trust to continue and increase patrolling efforts within the Western Area Peninsula National Park (WAPNP). The Team is excited to receive support for more patrol guards, intense training, and equipment to effectively patrol and assess the wildlife and ecologically significant habitat around Tacugama and the greater WAPNP. WAPNP is home to a number of important flora and fauna, but is facing significant threats due to land grabbing and clearing, hunting, charcoal pits, and more. Since 2012, our patrol guards recovered 3 illegal charcoal pits, 146 snares, and 19 shotgun shells. This area is home to two groups of chimps, at an estimated 8-10 adults, 3-4 adolescents, and 3 infants (Garriga 2012).

wild chimps

One of our patrol guards, Joseph Marah says “The constant presence of patrol guards alerts the nearby communities to stay out. When we meet people in these areas, we are able to sensitize them about the illegality of certain activities and word spreads quickly throughout the communities.” At Tacugama, we believe that raising awareness is the key to environmental protection and that we can work with communities to take ownership of conserving their land and wildlife. Tacugama is grateful to Tusk Trust for the support to continue protecting this area for watershed protection, a thriving forest, and a beautiful home for wildlife.


Tusk Trust Logo

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.


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.

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: and “The Kingdon Field Guide To African Mammals” by Jonathan Kingdon.

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.


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

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

Leadership book helps to raise money for Tacugama

Sweden Chimpanzee Trust has been a great supporter for Tacugama for years. This year was no exception. Last week, Tacugama received a generous donation of 100,000 Swedish Kroner (14,500 USD) from the Trust.
The money was raised by the sale of the book ““Ledarskap på apstadiet” (Apeology – evolution for managers and leaders’) written by the two Swedish authors Tommy Lundberg and Ola Berggren.

In this book the authors study chimpanzees to help identify the innate human needs that form the basis of how we interact in the workplace and in organizations. Genetically we are 98.6% the same as chimpanzees. By observing our tree-climbing cousins we can regain a natural awareness of what makes people feel good and perform well in a group.

The book takes the reader on an exciting journey from the jungles of Africa to our modern admass society – from hunting for food to hunting for profit, from the rainforest to offices, conference rooms and board meetings. Engaging, witty and informative, the book provides a wealth of practical managerial advice but is so accessible that it can be enjoyed by all employees. The book was nominated for ”Human Resource Book of the Year 2010” in Sweden.


Sweden Chimpanzee Trust and the authors Tommy Lundberg and Ola Berggren have donated more than one million Swedish kroner to chimpanzee projects in Africa over the last years. The money has been raised through the sale of the book.
For Tacugama, this great donation can make a world of difference and it will be used towards care of the chimpanzees, field outreach work and education.
Last week the money was handed over at a press conference in Stockholm. Unfortunately we were not able to be there, but Roxane from J.A.C.K sanctuary in DRC, who also received a donation, was there and talked about the chimpanzees in Africa and the threats they are facing.
Thank you so much Sweden Chimpanzee Trust and Ola and Tommy. We are incredible lucky have your support.



Baby Fina fully recovered and Back in Group

In March this year, our youngest chimp baby, Fina, fell severely ill with symptoms resembling meningitis. She was unable to sit up or eat solids. We had to remove her from her mum, Finda, to be able to treat her effectively. For some weeks it seemed like she would not make it, but thankfully, she turned a corner and slowly started improving in appetite and movements. We could not have done it without Posseh, our trusted ‘chimp mother’ who provided tender loving care.

Fina is much loved by all the other chimps

Fina is much loved by all the other chimps

By May, we felt Fina was well enough to be rejoined with her mum again. It took them over a week to get used to each other again, but then Finda’s milk production started again and they were as closely attached as before the illness. Over the last few weeks we reintegrated them with their group and it was great to see them out in the forest enclosure again with their old friends, who were very excited to be able to play with Fina again.

Fina hanging on to her mum, Finda (with productive mammaries on show!)

Fina hanging on to her mum, Finda (with productive mammaries on show!)

From Zoo to Sanctuary Veterinarian

The last month veterinarian Kate Bodley has help us out at Tacugama. Kate is a very experienced vet, who normally works for Melbourne Zoo. Here she gives you a bit of insight in her experience working with our chimpanzee:

My usual job is to work as one of the veterinarians at Melbourne Zoo, Australia, but this month I have been taking care of some of the veterinary work at Tacugama, while Dr Jenny takes a well earned break.

Melbourne Zoo’s veterinary team comprises four vets, three veterinary nurses, two hospital keepers and an administrative officer. While being only one vet at Tacugama, I have relied upon the expertise of the excellent care team. All are experienced with the veterinary aspects of the care for the chimps. The best thing about coming to Tacugama is the opportunity to learn! I have learned a great deal from the care team, and also from the chimps themselves. Melbourne Zoo has Western lowland gorillas, Sumatran orang utans, siamangs and white-cheeked gibbons in its primate collection, but no chimpanzees. I have discovered that chimps are remarkable.

A zoo vet’s work day can be filled with animal interactions – most may be quite negative ones for our animal patients. It is one of the bad parts of a great job – you move pretty quickly through the day, and spend time with animals only when they are feeling unwell, or when you are performing an unpleasant task, like changing a wound dressing. They are not pets, and for most (with notable exceptions!) a pat on the head is not a nice reward after being held for an injection. So many of Melbourne Zoo’s animals do not view the vets as friends or carers, and some remember our faces as being frightening ones.


It is not possible to work that way at Tacugama. It is important to spend some quiet time with the chimps each day. Practically, this enables you to make an assessment of their health, and gives the opportunity to administer treatments. Their thoughtful intelligence also means that there is some small chance of being friends, for a time. For me, this has been a most enjoyable part of being here. Of course, there are many challenges that are not present while working in a well-resourced city zoo. Sourcing veterinary drugs and consumables, like syringes and needles, can be very challenging, and keeping these valuable items dry during the rainy season is also difficult. The decision to examine an X ray means taking your patient down to a local hospital, but only when when the human patients have finished their x rays for the day.


The forested hills around Freetown provide an amazing backdrop for the day, and the work has been challenging and rewarding. I am sitting in the office and see “Gorilla” climb 50 metres up from the ground at the top of a tall tree, in his beautiful, forested enclosure. What a fantastic thing, for him and for me!


Tacugama’s outreach team’s latest work

The outreach team has just spent 3 weeks in Yiben in the Koinadugu district setting up camera traps and carrying out reconnaissance work.

The objectives of the Camera Trap study were:

To assess the status of wild chimpanzees and other mammals, to learn about the biodiversity richness and to characterize and map the vegetation landscape.

The camera triggers when the infrared sensor detects movement and temperature differences, for example when an animal passes by. It does not have flash to avoid disturbing the animal normal activities or scare them.

The aim of reconnaissance is to determine the distribution and relative abundance of medium and large mammal species and to characterize the vegetation.

Distance along the reconnaissance was measured with a hip chain and a GPS track log. The team walked along predetermined routes at a speed of 1-2 km 1hr. The field teams consisted of at least four people, including two observers, one compass bearer and one or more local guides. One of the observers focused on the ground, looking for signs such as dung and feeding remains. The other observer focused on looking up for animals and other signs (such as chimpanzee nests in the trees).


On each transect, the following variables were recorded:

–  Mammal sign: visual sightings, feeding remains, dung, and vocalizations.

–  Human sign: Including signs of power-saw logging, hunting (hunters, snares, hunting camps, gun shells), human trails, and farms.

–  Vegetation type.


Now that the team is back, and busy analysing their data. Soon we will be able to share more about their findings in the area. Enjoy our fabulous photos for now!



david and josephsmall

edward and yirahsmall

cotton tree Kondembaiasmall

Next generation of conservationists at Tacugama

Today, Tacugama welcomed students from God’s Army and Regent Elementary for a sanctuary tour and education session with Ethel our Education Coordinator.

Shool 1
After seeing the chimps in their forest enclosures the children watched conservation films addressing issues such as habitat loss, crop raiding and snares. They’ve all been given homework and we’ll be following up to see how much they learnt.

School 2