Building a Chimpanzee Nursery 

Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary now has 23 orphaned babies to house.

By Natasha Tworoski

You might think that the global COVID-19 pandemic would have slowed down the rescue activity for Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, one the founding members of PASA, located in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Unfortunately, the illegal poaching of chimpanzees for bushmeat continues to be a huge problem in the area, and nine orphans were rescued in 2020 alone, bringing the total number of chimpanzees currently in the nursery to 23. While the sanctuary has ample room for its residents, the nursery was not constructed with this number of orphans in mind. Tacugama needs our help to accommodate their efforts in saving the chimpanzees – now the national animal of Sierra Leone.

 Tacugama started the way many sanctuaries do, with good hearted people helping a primate in need, not realizing their lives would never be the same. In 1988, Bala and Sharmila Amarasekaran happened to notice a young, very ill chimpanzee for sale in a market in rural Sierra Leone. Seeing he wouldn’t last long without help, they bought him and named him Bruno. Bala and Sharmila nursed him to health and as he grew, they learned more about chimpanzee care, as well as the dire situation for chimpanzees in Sierra Leone. After years of collaboration with researchers, conservation groups and the national government, Bala successfully started Tacugama in 1995 to care for orphaned chimpanzees and to educate the world about their plight.

 Through a 13 year civil war, an ebola virus outbreak and natural disasters, such as devastating landslides, Tacugama has continued to protect chimpanzees and also to support the community by offering scholarships, school supplies and meals to local children in need. Along with the huge financial strain brought by Covid-19, the sheer number of chimpanzees has drained Tacugama’s resources. They desperately need our support now.

 PASA helped to raise money to renovate and expand the nursery to accommodate the huge influx of orphans. Besides giving the young chimpanzees three times the space, it helps give them access to forested space to practice climbing and artificial termite mounds so they can practice natural foraging behaviors.

A baby chimpanzee

A baby chimp, one of 23 currently living at Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary.