While Sierra Leone isn’t filled with the sort of wildlife many associate with Africa, is does have quite a bit. We always heard about elephants, but I never met anyone who ever had seen one. Sadly, even when I was there, poaching was causing havoc on the elephant population and that has only gotten worse in the ensuing years. Monkeys, baboons, and chimps were more commonly seen, sometimes sadly as meat. In 1988 Bala Amarasekaran and his wife Sharmila were traveling upcountry when they saw a baby chimp for sale. They took him, named him Bruno, and so began their mission to save the chimps of Sierra Leone. Today Tacaguma is an impressive sanctuary with thoughtful and caring professionals considering how best to help the chimpanzees of Sierra Leone. Through the war and beyond they have persevered. You can learn more of the dramatic history here.
I was incredibly fortunate in being able to visit the Sanctuary during my time in Sierra Leone. It is a beautiful place and the thought and care taken with the chimps is impressive. At this time one group is just about ready to be sent back to the wild, but first a proper and safe place for them must be found — not so easy given the prevalence of poachers. The individual chimps all have remarkable stories, many of them available on the site here. Bruno, however, is no longer among them. In a dramatic incident he and a group of chimps escaped and, while some have returned, he is not one of them.
Here are some of my photos of the Sanctuary.