Community Conservation

Founded in 2011 to address conservation outside of protected areas, the Tacugama Community Outreach Programme (TCOP) works with rural communities towards achieving sustainable natural resource management and wildlife conservation. It is necessary to support these key stakeholders if we are going to succeed at stopping the loss of biodiversity.

TCOP targets communities living in close proximity to known chimpanzee populations. Currently the TCOP team works in 7 districts of Sierra Leone (Moyamba, Pujehun, Bombali, Tonkolili, Falaba, Koinadugu and Western Area). The goal is to achieve sustainable management of natural resources, promote the cultivation of alternative non-vulnerable crops and sensitize people to the need for a respectful coexistence with chimpanzees. Using a multifaceted approach, the program aims to conserve wildlife species and their habitat, while simultaneously meeting the livelihood needs and development of local human communities.

Communities are supported by Tacugama through livelihood support, for example alternative livelihood initiatives that can include fruit tree planting, livestock farms, community woodlots, and inland valley swamp rice production. The goal of these alternative initiatives is to eliminate the need for dependency on bushmeat hunting and deforestation, and to provide communities with sustainable sources of income which result in local autonomy and poverty alleviation.

One common practice at Tacugama is the distribution of seed supplies to assist local communities in engaging in sustainable agriculture practices and community food production. For instance, the supply of swamp rice, an alternative to the upland rice variety which often requires forest areas to be cleared in order to plant. The rice also serves to mitigate human-wildlife conflict, because rice is not susceptible to crop raiding by wildlife.

Health & Hygiene

To improve health and hygiene in rural communities minimizing defecation in the bush/forest is essential. TCOP often provides means to construct latrines and other WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) components. Improving sanitation in communities greatly decreases the risk of disease transmission between and among both humans and wildlife.

Borehole construction in Sorbengi village, Moyamba District (March 2021)
Borehole construction in Sorbengi village, Moyamba District (March 2021)

In 2021, Tacugama collaborated with Sunday Foundation to build a secondary school in Mansonia – one of the villages closest to Loma Mountains National Park. Until then there were no secondary schools in Mansonia, or in any of the nearby communities, meaning that once children reached the age to go to secondary school, they were unable to continue their education. By assisting in the building schools we are able to lend a helping hand to younger generations so they can further their education and have brighter prospects for the future.

TCOP facilitates workshops and implements poster campaigns in all target communities. We aim to increase knowledge and awareness of chimpanzees as an endangered species protected by the law and emphasize why they and their habitats should be protected. Chimpanzees are used as an umbrella species to underscore the importance of protecting ecosystems, including other endangered species such as the tree pangolins, West African manatees and Timneh African Grey parrots.

Distribution of posters on the main road to Liberia (2018)

In addition, TCOP creates awareness at a national level through the main media channels in Sierra Leone to promote these conservation values, incluiding radio, newspaper, TV and social media. We have also recently launched our new ‘Chimpanzee National Animal Awareness & Protection Campaign’!

TCOP Team on Capital Radio (Sept 2021)

Treeplanting is the perfect initiative that helps fight against deforestation and mitigate climate change. Ensuring that communities understand the need to give back to the forest and to never cut down a tree without planting another is a crucial goal of TCOP.

Tacugama has been growing its own tree nursery at the sanctuary since 2009, including mango and guava trees, and will provide some fruits for the sanctuary while generating local employment. Ultimately, we wish to demonstrate the potential for successful small-scale plantations thus encouraging local villagers to plant for themselves. Nevertheless, when possible the team also embarks on large-scale tree planting missions. In 2021 we planted close to 45,000 tree seedlings in Sierra Leone.

TCOP has a total of 46 patrol officers stationed across Sierra Leone – 9 in the Western Area, 21 in Loma Mountains National Park, 6 in Jaibui Island and 10 in Mobondah. These officers are actively engaged forest protection and wildlife monitoring, which leads to their regular naming as eco-guards.

The eco-guards are taught to used SMART (a wildlife monitoring application) and Gaia GPS to record signs of wildlife and illegal human activity. The information collected is transferred to the Tacugama office in Freetown and used to generate monthly reports that are subsequently shared with the National Protected Area Authority.

The importance of having a system of eco-guards throughout the country is evident by the fact that it is often the eco-guards who provide intelligence to carry out chimpanzee rescue missions, and their knowledge of the terrain, signs and trails means they are perfect participants to carry out field work for chimpanzee census or camera-trap surveys.