- Orphaned or abused chimpanzees,
- A sanctuary that has survived 10 years of civil war.
- A desperate need for money.
These are the ingredients of a service learning project that will intrigue and inspire middle school students. On a recent trip to Sierra Leone in West Africa I visited Tacugama, a sanctuary for chimpanzees. Their goal is to reintroduce the chimps back into the wild, but it is a long and expensive process.
These chimps are in the enclosure that helps them learn to socialize with other chimps. Many have not had that experience in captivity.
Chimps live in family groups in the wild–socialization is a survival skill.
Over 20,000 chimpanzees roamed the forests of Sierra Leone in the 1970’s, but now there are only 3,000. There are a variety of reasons why the numbers have dropped drastically:
- Their habitat has shrunk.
- They are captured for medical research or to be sold as pets.
- They are considered ‘bush meat” and when times are tough they are hunted for food.
- They are highly susceptible to human diseases like HIV.
These chimps are almost ready to be released to wild!
The Sanctuary rescues chimps that are often in dire circumstances. Baby chimps are adorable and so human-like that people often want them as pets. However, a full grown chimp has 5 times the physical strength of a man, so the cuddly baby grows into a unruly adolescent that can wreck a home in minutes and into an adult that is dangerous. Hence they are often chained and caged under deplorable conditions. The Tacugama staff works hard to rehabilitate these chimps so they can live free. Click on this link to read about the history of the Sanctuary: http://www.tacugama.com/history.html.
Sierra Leone’s civil war was tough on the chimps as well as humans. They were terrorized by bombs and gunfire and suffered physically and emotionally just as humans do.
It takes about $1000 to support one chimpanzee for a year. However, smaller donations are welcomed. Schools, teams and/or advisory groups might find supporting this haven for battered and endangered chimpanzees a worthwhile project. More information about supporting Tacugama can be found at this link: http://www.tacugama.com/support.html
If you look closely at the trees you will see dark clumps of leaves–these are the chimps’ nests where they sleep at night.
Finally, there is a blog that students may find interesting (http://tacugama.wildlifedirect.org/). The posts explain what is happening with individual chimps; the photos are wonderful! Readers will learn a lot about chimps as well as the Sanctuary. We often never know what inspires our students to make specific career and life choices — reading about the chimps of Tacugama may just be a catalyst for future decisions related to international travel, non-profit work, or veterinary work!
Who is watching whom???
The one in the back whose face we cannot see was not impressed with us–s/he threw rocks at us.
PS–Feel free to use these pictures for your own use.