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Sierra Leone News: Chimpanzee declared national icon

On Thursday 28 February 2019, Sierra Leone declared the chimpanzee the national animal and vowed to protect chimps from hunters, deforestation and human activities. “I declare Western chimpanzee as national animal of Sierra Leone,” Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security, Joseph Ndanemah said at a ceremony held in Freetown on Thursday night. The declaration was in honor of a three-day visit by 84-year old, eminent primatologist, Jane Goodall, anthropologist and UN Messenger of Peace. She was instrumental in setting up of the only chimpanzee sanctuary in the country, Tacugama Reserve, 27-years ago. According to The American Journal of Primatology, the chimp population plunged more than 80% between 1990 and 2014. Sierra Leone is home to about 10% of an estimated 55,000 still living wild. “Sierra Leone wildlife such as Diana monkey, colobus monkeys, rare birds and pygmy hippos are endangered species,” the Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security Joseph Ndanemah said. “Chimpanzees are part of the Sierra Leonean culture,” the Minister added. “I’m delighted and proud of the declaration of chimps as our ‘national icon’ by the Government,” a university student, Augustine Kamara, said just after the announcement. Western chimpanzees are the only critically endangered chimp subspecies. They have already been wiped out in Burkina Faso, Benin, Gambia — and possibly Togo too. Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary is 40 minutes drive outside of Freetown, set high in the hills of the Western Area Forest Reserve. Jane Goodall’s visit comes at a time when wildlife tourism, conservation, and sustainability are taking top billing on the global tourism stage with the hope of rekindling Sierra Leone’s tourism sector after recovery from war, Ebola and Mudslide. “We urge the Government to unite all stakeholders to protect the only sanctuary in the country from deforestation, and human activities for the future generations,” said Head of the Tacugama Sanctuary, Bala Amarasekaran. They have their hands full at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, where record numbers of orphaned chimps are being delivered to their care – victims of the relentless expansion of human activities including deforestation, unrestricted construction projects, etc. Poachers hunt them for their meat, farmers shoot them to protect their crops and a lack of political will means more and more of their habitat is being surrendered to urban development and forestry. “I’m calling on the Government to review wildlife and biodiversity laws in the country.” Amarasekaran said at the ceremony. “I was born loving animals,” Jane Goodall said. Adding, “We share 98% human genes with chimpanzees, we are all apes,” Goodall said. “The forest gives us clean water, food and air. And, every single human being needs to make a difference on the environment to avoid the greatest danger of our future,” Jane Goodall said.

SB/2/3/19

By Saidu Bah

Monday March 04, 2019.

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