Bala with Bruno

Bala with Bruno up a tree

Bala's second ever chimp - Julie, grooming Bruno

Ask the staff around the sanctuary, or even Bala and everyone agrees that Bruno is the founder of Tacugama. If that is not enough, Bruno is also a local celebrity around Freetown and the 
Peninsula! Few people around Freetown may not have heard about Tacugama but everyone knows Bruno. Anyone you ask about Tacugama will talk about Bruno. He is the former alpha male of the first group of chimpanzees we had at Tacugama. Bruno was very charismatic, spectacularly imposing and physically the strongest chimpanzee we have ever had at Tacugama. You can see an introductory video of Bruno.

Bruno was wary of visitors and very accurate at hurling rocks and stones at anyone when he felt threatened. However, to those who knew him, he was an extremely affectionate and cheeky character. He kept his group in order and was gentle and protective over the young ones. When in the mood, Bruno was capable of imitating several traditionally human like characteristics such as tongue rolling and twisting, 'flying kisses' and even laughter.

When Bala Amarasekaran and his wife Sharmila first saw Bruno in 1988, he was a few months old and very weak. They paid $20 for him, (certain that if they had not he would have soon died), and named him Bruno - after Frank Bruno, the British Heavyweight boxer who was fighting Mike Tyson that very day!                                                                              

For a year he lived in Bala and Sharmila's house without a cage, and got up to plenty of mischief. When they rescued a second chimp, Julie, Bala erected a cage for them in their garden. When the sanctuary was built, Bruno had to remain in the cage, as he was too large to go on the daily forest walks with the younger chimps. It wasn't until the electric fenced enclosures were built in 1998 that Bruno was able to taste the partial freedom of the forest within the enclosure.

Bruno was one of the chimpanzees who escaped in April 2006 after a few chimps in Bruno's group had watched and learnt how to unlock some of our traps. Although Bruno did not lead the escape, the sense of freedom once he was out was overpowering. Most of the escaped chimps returned on their own accord, however, Bruno hasn't come back to the sanctuary. We believe that he has integrated into a wild chimpanzee group. We have recovered some photos of wild chimpanzees from our camera traps of what appears to be Bruno. However, we cannot be completely certain of his whereabouts. We like to think he has returned back to where he belongs.

A good friend of Tacugama, Paul Glynn has captured the story of Bruno in a beautifully illustrated children's book "King Bruno"; described by Jane Goodall as 'Enchanting, moving and educational... will appeal to young and old alike'.  For more details visit the King Bruno website. You can click here to read about what inspired Paul to write about Bruno.

We were very privileged to have the famous award winning author Aminatta Forna (books such as The Hired Man, The Memory of Love and The Devil that danced on water) read an extract during the launch of the book at the Barbican in London. To view the short video, please click here.

You can buy this fascinating book with great illustrations from our shop. Part of the proceeds from the sales go to Tacugama.