Chimps our National Champs: The National Animal Campaign Continues

By Daniella Samura, Communication Officer

It is as though the rains were just waiting for the Chimpanzee National Animal Awareness and Protection Campaign (CNAAPC) to end before it comes pouring down heavily in the City of Freetown. Well, I guess even nature throws her support for Sierra Leone’s National Animal, the Chimpanzee. As a staff of the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary (TCS), I am happy because I was part of the historic Chimp Week celebrations, and I am sure the past celebratory week will linger in the thoughts and minds of people for a long time. Firstly, TCS wants to extend its sincere thanks and appreciation to all those who were part of Chimp Week celebration either directly or indirectly. We want to say a big thank you to all our sponsors and partners. You are all highly appreciated, and we look forward to celebrating subsequent Chimp Weeks with you. The CNAAPC wasn’t just about gathering people together and having fun. It was about raising awareness about Sierra Leone’s National Animal, and changing people’s negative perceptions about Chimps. A lot of people might be wondering why protecting the country’s national animal is so important that we at TCS decided to dedicate a whole week to the campaign. It is important to protect Chimps because by protecting them, we are also protecting the environment. It is no longer hidden that climate change has been a major issue around the globe, and Sierra Leone is not an exception. We have witnessed mudslide and flooding among others. Deforestation is one of the causes of climate change, and it appears to be visible here in Sierra Leone. Most of the areas that are being destroyed are the homes (natural habitats) of Chimps and other animals living in the wild. If we don’t save this endangered great ape now, then they will disappear from the face of the earth along with our forests and rich biodiversity. The importance of the forests and our environment cannot be over emphasized, but they play a key role to our existence here on earth. Therefore, it’s up to us humans to protect Chimps and other wild animals and also preserve our forests and environment for future generations. We should protect chimps because they are chimps!! They are cool, loving, caring, intelligent, smart, majestic and similar to humans. Protecting the country’s national animal means bringing tourists into the country; thereby, promoting tourism in Sierra Leone. Protecting Sierra Leone’s National Animal means having a safe Heaven where Sierra Leoneans would come to enjoy Mother Nature. Protecting Chimpanzees means protecting the forest and water catchment areas: thereby, providing enough water and fresh air for everyone. Moreover, Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives, and we should feel empathy towards them because of the similarities we share. Therefore, we need to help protect these creatures who cannot speak for themselves. In view of all the above, it is incumbent on all of us to act now before the unimaginable happens. Photos By: Renato Granieri

Do you remember the Chimp Week Celebrations? It was really a week to remember. It kicked off with a Kids March in the morning on Monday 9th May 2022. The march featured many schools both primary and secondary from Freetown. The kids were carrying banners with words boldly written “Lef for cut tik dem na di forest planet B nor dae, Sierra Leone is the first and only country to declare the Chimpanzee as its National Animal” and many more. The joy I saw on the faces of the children while marching to the vibrant songs of Tacugama in the streets of Freetown, still brings a smile to my face.

 In the afternoon, there was a football tournament at the SS Camp Football Field in Freetown. The tournament was organized by TCS alongside Dr. Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Club. Alongside the matches, there were also games for kids and adults which included environmental trivia and drawing challenges. On Tuesday 10th May 2022, there was an art exhibition at Toma. For this event, TCS partnered with the Barray Artists to design a beautiful art collection of Chimps. The exhibition continued till Saturday 13th May, and the collections were auctioned online and at the Gala and Fundraising event at the Radisson Blu Hotel. On Wednesday 11th May, TCS partnered with the Patriotic Advocacy Network (PAN) to organize a storytelling event at the Freetown City Council Auditorium. The essence of this event was to promote the act of storytelling and also to allow people share their experiences with the Chimps. The theme of the event was “Chimps Our National Champs”. There were variety of people at the event ranging from school kids, adults, TCS staff and other members of the public. There was music, dance, poetry and drama to keep everyone entertained. 

On the Thursday of the same week, there was a climate change event at the residence of the British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Lisa Chesney. Present at the event were the Founder and Director of TCS, Mr. Bala Amarasekaran, the Minister of Environment, Professor Foday Moriba Jaward, Staff of TCS, members of the fourth estate and other dignitaries. The event was geared towards raising awareness about climate change and protecting Chimps and their natural habitat.  There were also inspirational words from a unique video recording of Dr. Jane Goodall at the event. To close the week, on the 15th May there was the Gala Night and fundraising event at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Aberdeen. There were a lot of dignitaries at the event, and the keynote speaker was Peter Penfold, a former British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone in the 1990s. Raffle tickets were sold at the event and people won amazing prices. The event featured the painting and drawings from the art and photography exhibition, drama skit and cultural performances by the Royal Entertainment Group, music, poetry, raffle draw and auction.

A lot of people keep asking why the CNAAPC activities only focused in Freetown. Well, since this the first year of the campaign, TCS activities were done mainly in Freetown, but in subsequent years, the campaign will spread throughout the country because CNAAPC targets everyone. The National Animal Campaign craves the attention of every Sierra Leonean because it takes the entire nation to protect Chimps and our environment. It is the duty of all Sierra Leoneans to help spread the message about our National Animal, the Chimpanzee and protect them in their natural habitat. The awareness raising does not stop with Chimp Week, so we all need to continue being ambassadors for the Chimps because Sierra Leone is their home too. The CNAAPC continues; the change starts with you!!!