Sierra Leone Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Programme
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Mosses, one of our finest caretakers snuggles with little Kafoe

How We Began



In November 1998, WSPA were finally able to visit the project and support the building of three electric fences, covering a total area of 8 acres. There were 21 chimps at the Sanctuary and a new chimp recently confiscated by WCB called Christo being nursed at Bala's homein Freetown.

A few weeks after WSPA’s visit, rebel forces made another attempt to overthrow the government and on January 6th 1999, rebels once again advanced on Freetown. Heavy fighting ensued in the capital and more than 3,000 people were killed and many others mutilated in the following weeks. Sadly, this included Mr. Prince Palmer, the chairman of the Tacugama Sanctuary steering committee, who had been so encouraged by WSPA’s visit a few weeks before.

The staff once again hid close to the sanctuary, getting what food to the chimps they could. Bala was fortunate to be living in a part of Freetown that remained under the protection of ECOMOG forces allowing Bala to stay in SL despite the war. Within days of the coup starting, and during a curfew, Christo fell sick with tetanus and Bala was forced to break into a pharmaceutical store to obtain the life saving drugs.

The den roof had to be labelled in bold letters to avoid unintentional air strikes during war time.

Tacugama made a big step forward in 2000. Three electric fenced enclosures, dens, food storage room and office were constructed. Bruno’s group was the first group of chimpanzees to be socialized and released into the enclosure. Tacugama together with 17 other African primate sanctuaries also formed an alliance, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA).

The complete disarmament in 2001 marked the end of the civil war and led the country to peace. Many young chimpanzees were brought from up-country to Freetown, mostly to be sold as pets to Peace Keeping Operation soldiers and expatriates. As Tacugama’s active sensitisation on the illegal chimpanzee pet trade was going on, many pet chimpanzees were confiscated and this doubled the number of chimpanzees under the sanctuary’s care.

The first documentary on Tacugama titled “Forest of Hope” was filmed. Its main story was around Pinkie’s introduction to Bruno’s group. Unfortunately, Pinkie died unexpectedly in 2002. She will forever be remembered as the amazing white chimp.

As the documentary, “Forest of Hope,” attracted much attention around the world, another documentary, “Chimps Under Fire” was filmed to update the on-going activities at the sanctuary. By 2003 Tacugama now had a basic resource center, a quarantine clinic for new arrivals and a food preparation room thanks to funds from the European Union, the National Authorising Office & Animal Planet.

Mural painted by local artist, Santos

Four additional enclosures and dens were built in 2004 to accommodate the increasing number of resident chimpanzees. Jaguar’s group, a younger group of chimpanzees who were released in one of the new enclosures. The release was filmed to create the third documentary “Bala, the Friend of Chimpanzees” which was aired in France.

Project director, Bala with his excellency President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah at 10th anniversary celebration

In 2005 the volunteer and staff quarters were built together with new dens to accommodate 16 more young chimpanzees. An onsite veterinarian joins the team at Tacugama for the first time.

In order to promote the conservation of wild chimpanzees in Guinea and Sierra Leone, a nationwide education program is launched in collaboration with the Jane Goodall Institute funded by USAID.

On the 6th of October, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary hosted more than 500 guests to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. It was a great honour for us to have His Excellency, Dr. Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. We were also delighted with the presence of many Government Ministers, Ambassadors, International guests, heads of NGO´s, village elders and children.


Community relief distribution for villagers from Charlotte

On the 23rd of April 2006 a group of 31 chimps of various ages escaped from the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. In the following two weeks after the escape, 21 chimps returned, of which 19 had done on their own will. After two months, 26 out of the 31 were back. There was a lapse of three months before we were able to rescue one more adult chimp, Ole. Up to today we have had sightings of two of the younger chimps, Sabi & Toko but sadly none of Bruno nor of Charlie Boy.

Read the June 2006 newsletter for further details.

New enclosures have been built for the new arrivals, and Tacugama is now home to 85 endangered & orphaned chimpanzees. Congo and her daughter, our visiting wild chimp continues to visit Bruno & Augusta's group.

In 2006 our community support programmes gathered momentum. The Regent primary school received books & stationary upgrades. Clothing, shoes & various relief supplies were distributed as far as Kailahun village, 300 miles north of Freetown.

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International Primate Protection League

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World Society for the Protection of Animals

Arcus Foundation

Kevin Mcphilips Foundation


Thank You John Lydon!


Chimp Facts

Young chimps and young baboons sometimes play together when they meet in the forest.

More Facts

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