On 6th October 2005, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary hosted more than 500 guests to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. It was a great honour for us to receive His Excellency, Dr. Alhaji Ahamed Tejan Kabbah, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. We were also delighted at the presence of man Government Ministers, Ambassadors, International guests, heads of NGOs, village elders and children.
At the entrance to the sanctuary, students from Regent’s village community school entertained everyone with their traditional dances and welcome songs. The ceremony took place at the resource centre, overlooking some of our chimpanzee enclosures and the beautiful hills bordering Tacugama.
We also had curious spectators watching from the trees, as the event took place in full view of some of Tacugama´s chimpanzees. Statements from various governmental representatives as well as other national and international organizations were delivered. Bala Amarasekaran, the founder and director of the sanctuary, gave an emotional account of the 10 year history and emphasised the need for a greater level of protection and higher status for the Western Area Forest.
The keynote address was given by President Kabbah and it explored the important issues of conservation, and sustainable development. Souvenirs were presented to all of our distinguished guests. They included t-shirts made especially for the event and a copy of a documentary on Tacugama´s work, entitled “Chimps Under Fire”. The President was delighted to receive a special present from Bala: a toy chimp to take home.
Some years ago, the President´s son had a chimp at home named Jido and the President requested his son to hand over the chimp to the sanctuary. President Kabbah also officially inaugurated our onsite laboratory. The ceremony came to an end with a tour conducted by Bala accompanied by the President and our guests, visiting some of the chimpanzees, and the newly constructed facilities.
The whole ceremony was a great success, even for Bruno! Early that morning he and his group were supposed to stay in one of the enclosures, away from the resource centre. But he knew that this day was special and didn’t want to miss out all the fun. Perhaps he wanted to see the President too. Being the alpha male, he had his say and of course he wanted to be part of the celebration.
We had to keep the early arrivals waiting at the entrance until Bala managed to persuade Bruno to enter his den, below the resource centre. It was hilarious as Bruno also joined in with his own pant-hoots, banging the metal doors whenever there was applause from the crowd.