A Chimp Census for the Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserve (WAPFoR)

We wanted to learn more about the numbers and distribution of the Chimpanzee and other wildlife in the Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserve. The National Chimpanzee Census Project in 2010 covered the Peninsula, and was a good start, but was not as detailed as we would have liked. The camera traps complemented the initial survey and covered the Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserve (WAPFoR) to give a far more detailed view of the

camera position on the peninsula
biodiversity of the area.

We installed a number of infra-red camera-traps, installing them throughout the Forest Reserve and covering the entire northern half. Dr Rosa Garriga, our former resident veterinarian, coordinated this project from Barcelona, and we started to bring the cameras into the field in the middle of February 2011. We express our sincere appreciation to the Barcelona Zoo for providing the funds to embark on this project.
We used 18 infra-red cameras in total, which were moved gradually throughout 130 locations across the peninsula. The cameras were placed roughly a kilometre apart, covering an area of 167 square kilometres. The idea behind the camera traps was to increase knowledge of distribution, home range, and relative abundance of the wild chimpanzees, to prepare for potential reintroduction into the wild, and to increase the biodiversity data for these threatened forest areas. As well as investigating chimpanzees, we collected data on relative abundance of other terrestrial animals, and the presence or absence of endemic species such as the Jentink's duiker. Finally, we hoped to gain a deeper understanding of the direct and indirect threats to the forest and its wildlife.

Trail of some camera positions
The project was completed in February 2012, lasting 12 months. The cameras operated continuously over a 30 day period in each location, amounting to a total of 3,958 trap days and 6,147 photographs of animals recording 21 different species, including 4 primate species, 5 species of ungulates, 5 of rodents, 4 of carnivores, 2 bird species, and 1 of anteater. We were very excited to capture over 200 photographs of Jentink's Duiker between October 2011 and February 2012; these are the first irrefutable evidence of their presence in WAPFoR.

You can download the WAPFoR Camera Trap Survey report from 2012 by clicking here.

To increase protection of this important habitat, the Government of Sierra Leone recently announced that it is planning to designate the area as Sierra Leone’s third national park. Efforts are also underway to have the forest listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some progress to reconfirm the forest boundary and initiate alternative livelihood projects with neighbouring communities has been made, thanks to a European Union funded programme implemented by German NGO Welthungerhilfe and local partners including Tacugama and the Environmental Forum for Action. However, all of these measures will take time to implement and increased protection through patrolling and law enforcement is urgently needed if the long term survival of this amazing forest reserve, Jentink’s duiker, chimpanzees and other endangered species is to be assured.