The aim of the Sierra Leone
Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Program is to provide a safe home for orphaned and endangered chimpanzees. The cruel and wasteful pet and bushmeat trade must be
put to an end. Tacugama also endeavours to help protect and conserve the
species in the wild by engaging with the public through environmental
sensitisation and training programs.
Not so long ago wild chimpanzees were captured by the thousands and shipped out of Africa as specimens for bio-medical research, for entertainment, placed in zoos or kept as private pets. Although this trade is now illegal in most parts of Africa, an unlawful network continues to hunt chimpanzees and the daily destruction of their habitat is forcing wild populations to live in isolated pockets of forest. Another major pressure on the future survival of these sentient apes is the pet trade within Africa where young are bought as novelty pets. All trade supports the inhumane slaughter of countless chimpanzees where the mothers are usually killed and infants often die from gunshot wounds, dehydration or depression.
In Sierra Leone, the chimpanzee pet trade was flourishing until the sanctuary opened, over 50 pets were found in the capital Freetown. Whilst young they are playful and cute, but as they grow older they become difficult to handle. Chimpanzees can get up to 5 times stronger than an average man. Thus many are killed and abandoned once they grow bigger and start to challenge their keepers. Those that do survive live a life of cruelty in confinement, denied their most basic needs. Although Sierra Leone prohibits the capture and sale of chimpanzees, enforcing this law means confiscating pets. Authorities are then faced with the dilemma of what to do with so many chimpanzees. Once captive they cannot simply be returned to the wild, they would be attacked by wild chimpanzees and without the support of their family, may perish.
Realising the urgency to find a home for confiscated pet chimpanzees and those acquired through alternative means, the Government of Sierra Leone, and the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone supported the establishment of Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary and the European Union provided the initial funding in 1995.