A home for orphaned, abandoned or mistreated chimps

1041 Reviews

Star Travel Rating

3/5

Review type

Things to do

Location

Date of travel

January, 2023

Product name

Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Product country

Sierra Leone

Product city

Freetown

Travelled with

Couple

Reasons for trip

Culture/Sightseeing

Sierra Leone’s Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary is a popular day trip from the capital, Freetown. After a 30-minute drive, the final 10-minutes involves a bumpy track and steep hill, so a 4WD vehicle is useful.

The sanctuary opened in 1995 as a home for orphaned, abandoned or mistreated chimpanzees. There are four tours daily, and we gathered at 4pm along with six others (there is a maximum of 10). Our hour-long tour began with a recorded briefing, which boomed out of a speaker. This welcomed us, provided safety information and informed us that masks were mandatory.

Alfred, our guide, led us along a track behind reception and past a board containing photos of their prominent chimps, including one called Jackson (my surname). QR codes would have led to detailed information about the chimp, but we had no Wi-Fi. However I later discovered that Jackson was born in 2015 and was confiscated, in a weak and underweight state in April 2017 from the clutches of 30 children, purportedly looking after him.

We passed the area where new arrivals stay for 90 days to ensure they’re disease free, and to see how they relate to others.

After a short walk, we arrived at the first enclosure. A steep flight of steps led to the viewing platform, where we were advised to stand behind netting as the chimps are prone to stone throwing. The 14 chimps were learning how to fend for themselves with ropes replicating tree vines, and a concrete termite mound containing honey encouraged them to investigate. Their antics were fascinating but pretty noisy when fights started.

Unfortunately our guide was not particularly forthcoming but had all the answers when asked questions, and we learned about feeding (4 times a day on vegetables, fruits, eggs and pulses), contraception (their implants often fail), and relationships (they don’t bear grudges). We were told about the four subspecies (western, central, eastern and Nigerian-Cameroon) and their different characteristics. Although we’d read about King Bruno, we had to tease the story from our guide. In April 2006, Bruno, a huge alpha male and the inspiration for the sanctuary, led an escape group of 30 chimps. Whilst most were eventually enticed back with food, Bruno never returned and has become a legend with many claiming to have met him.

We moved on to a pen across the way, where the chimps lived in a more natural setting, and here we could see how volatile they were, when one began pelting the platform with stones.

Finally, a ten-minute walk took us to the final area, where 14 chimps roam 9 acres of dense forest.

Having learned at the outset that there were currently 115 resident chimps, I realised we’d not seen them all, but were told that other areas are not included in the tour.

Helen Jackson

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