Sierra Leone Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Programme
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The rainforests of West Africa have been earmarked as one of the worlds hotspots for biodiversity. These forests extend from Senegal to Togo, and are referred to as the Upper Guinean forests. These are separated from the rest of the African rainforests by the Dahomey gap: an extension of the woodland savanna of the Sahel to the Gulf of Guinea. Because of its isolated position the Upper Guinean forest zone harbours a large number of endemic animal and plant species. Tacugama's 100 acres of protected area boasts a plethora of wildlife & plant biodiversity. Walking around the Sanctuary you can very easily stumble upon hundreds of rare species of plants and animals.



Sierra Leone is located on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, and lies at the western end of the upper Guinean Forest Block. It is one of the most severely deforested of the countries in the region. At the beginning of the century about 70% of SL was once covered with mature closed forest but by 1976only 5% of the country was covered by mature/primary forests. Another 3.5% was under secondary forest.

Logging, mineral exploitation and slash-and-burn agriculture have all taken a toll on the country’s rich biological life (biodiversity). With nearly 28 categories of protected areas in representative ecosystems, the area coverage is still less than 4% of the land area, with nearly all of these protected areas suffering from inadequate protection due to lack of manpower, technical support and financial resources. Sierra Leone has also gone through a costly civil unrest, with severe impact on its human life and biodiversity.

The most important remaining forest areas are the highlands of the southern and eastern provinces, and on the axial mountain chain of the Western Area Forest (WAF).

Western Area Forest Reserve

The Western Area Forest covers the hills of the Freetown Peninsula and is the westernmost area of closed-canopy forest remaining in Sierra Leone. It is separated by about 160 km from the nearest area of closed canopy forest, at Bo.

In order to conserve the forest, soil and water the first part of the Western Area Forest Reserve was designated in 1916. Subsequent additions between 1916 and 1973 have brought the total area of protected land to 17482 ha. Since the Wildlife Conservation Act 1972, the area has been designated a non-hunting forest reserve. However, as shown in the figure below, the area is steadily shrinking due to increased pressures from human encroachment.

The whole area lies under Western Area administration and responsibility for the Forest Reserve lies with the Forestry Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Forestry. Land in Western Area outside the Forest Reserve is privately owned, in contrast to the situation elsewhere in Sierra Leone where most areas outside reserves are under chiefdom control.


Most of the Western Area Forest is classified as Guineo-Congolian rainforest of the hygrophilous coastal evergreen type.

It has a closed canopy at about 30 m or more with emergent trees rising above this canopy. The drier rocky slopes and summits support low scrub forest. The laterite pans are covered by natural grassland, since the soil there is too poor to support scrub or high forest. As a result of past human activities very little of the original rainforest remains in an undisturbed state.

The areas inland of the Peninsula are a mixture of farmbush and scattered grassland with small remnants of Lophira savannah. Neighbouring coastal areas support mangroves.

Tacugama Forest Reserve was covered with primary and/or mature forests in the past. However, most of this area is now covered with secondary forest and farm bush, as a result of he heavy deforestation by shifting cultivation, charcoal burning and lumber extraction for building. More than 100 different species of birds have been identified in and around the Tacugama Forest Reserve.

More than 2000 species of plants occur in Sierra Leone, of which about 74 species and one genus are endemic.


Some 614 bird species have been recorded in SL of which six are threatened. The white-breasted guinea fowl Agelastes meleagrides, which was recently rediscovered in SL and is considered as one of the most threatened birds in continental Africa.

There are 15 species of primates in the country of which 11 are forest species. Six species of the primates are threatened. These include western Chimpanzee (Pantroglodytes verus), the Black and White Colobus Monkey (Procolobus polykomus), Red Colobus Monkey (Colobus badius polykomos), Diana Monkey (Cercopithecus diana), , and Olive Colobus Monkey.

There are 18 species of antelopes of which 9 species are threatened and 16 endangered. These include the Jentincks (Cephalophus jentinki) and Zebra duikers (Cephalophus zebra). Other threatened species of mammals include 1 species of forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis) which is believed to have almost gone extinct, West African Manatee (Trichechus senegalensis), pigmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis), leopard (Pantera pardus),an endemic frog found in the Tingi Hills (Bufo cristiglands) and an endemic toad found in the Western Area Peninsula Forest (Cardioglossus aureolli). there are 9 species of fruit bats and 3 species of crocodiles (Nile, Slender-snouted, Dwarf). There are 130 species of fresh water fish, 108 species of butterflies and 5 species of marine turtles.

Relatively few endemic invertebrates are known to exist and these include two dragonfly species, Argiagrion leoninum and Allohizucha campioni, the rare giant swallow-tail butterfly, Papilio antimachus, which reaches its western limit in Sierra Leone.

Most of the wildlife populations have been severely depleted outside of protected areas as a result of over-hunting and habitat destruction.

Fauna of the lowland rainforest ecosystem of SL:

Jentinks duiker (Cephalophus jentinki)
Zebra duiker (Cephalophus zebra)
Pygmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis)
Royal antelope (Neotragus pygmaeus)
Black duiker (cephalophus niger)
Ogilbys duiker (cephalophus ogilbyi brookei)

Montane ecosystems fauna :

Maxwells duiker (cephalophus maxwelli)
Hippopotamus (Hyemoschus aquaticus)

Savanna ecosystem fauna:

Aardvark (Orycteropus afer)
Western dassie (Procavia capensis)
Common hippopotamus (hippopotamus amphibus amphibus)
Red river hog (potamochoerus porcus)
Giant forest hog (hylochoerus meinertzhageni ivoriensis)
Warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus)
Water chevrotain (Hyemoschus aquaticus)
Red flanked duiker (Cephalophus rufilatus)
Blue duiker (cephalophus monticola)
Yellow backed duiker (cephalophus sylvicultor)
Bushbuck (tragelaphus scriptus)
Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus defassa)
Forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
African elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis africana)
Cape clawless otter (Aonyx capensis)
Spotted neck otter (Lutra maculicollis)
Ratel (Mellivora capensis)
African civet (Viverra civetta)
Palm civet (Nandinia binotata)
Genet (Genetta spp)
Dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula)
Marsh mongoose (Herpestes paludinosus)
Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon)
Cusimanse mongoose (Crossarchus obscurus)
Serval (Leptailurus serval)
African wild cat (Felis sylvestris)
Leopard (Panthera pardus)

Wetland ecosystem fauna:

West african manatee (Trichechus senegalensis)


The climate is tropical with relatively constant temperatures. The maximum and minimum temperatures varying between 30C and 25C in April, and 27C and 23C in August.

A single rainy season lasts from May to October, over half of the rain falling in July and August. Average annual rainfall varies between 3000 mm on the inland side of the Peninsula and 6000 mm on the western side, with up to 7000 mm falling on some of the peaks.

Between December and February the cool, dry Harmattan wind sometimes blows from the north, reducing visibility.

Humidity is high. Relative humidity at 15:00 hours varying between 69% in January and February and 82% in August.

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Gola being weighed

Chimp Facts

About 90% of all primates are found in tropical rain forests around the world. As these habitats disappear, primates become endangered. One on five species of primates is either endangered or critically endangered.

More Facts

Last Updated: January 20, 2007 at 16:20 EST