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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.


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.


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!

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.
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.

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!

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.

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.


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


Appeal for help – Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone

Thank you all for all the concerned emails we have received the last weeks concerning the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone. The situation is definitely very worrying, but for now, all of us at Tacugama – both people and animals – are well, and we are taking all precautionary measures to stay safe and calm. We are running regular briefings with our staff to make sure everybody is update on the situation.

But, Sierra Leone is now in a state of emergency and not only are we concerned about how the situation is going to develop in the future. We are also concerned about our financial situation, as our visitors to the sanctuary and our lodges have almost completely disappeared within the last month. Normally a big part of our running costs, such as staff salaries and animal food are covered by the visitors and the lodges, which usually bring in about $3000 per month.

With the lack of visitors and the potential for the prices for animal food going up, we are very worried that the outbreak will seriously affect our finances. The food will potential also get harder to get, as Government has begun controlling movement of vehicles.
If you want to support us through this difficult time, please have a look at this link on how to donate to us:

We will be very grateful for any support, big or small, received.

We will keep you updated on the situation and in the mean time do our best to keep anyone here safe. Our thoughts go out to the families that have already had victims to the Ebola.


The Tacugama Team




“Making the Environment Green” – National Tree Planting Day in Sierra Leone

Tuesday the 22nd of July, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary’s outreach team took part in the” National Tree Planting” ceremony along the Regent-Jui Highway. The ceremony was attended by many people, including the President of Sierra Leone Dr. Ernest Koroma.



Blog 3

Trees planted by Tacugama were provided by the Sanctuary’s Tree Nursery.
The members of the Outreach Team planted about 500 trees including mangos and acacia along the Tacugama road and forest path. The day was organised by the Sierra Leone Government and the aim of the day was  to ensure a green environment for sustainable development and environmental preservation. Tacugama warmly welcomes this great initiative.


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!