In five rural communities in Bagruwa, Moyamba District, Tacugama undertook a task to connect three patches of forest to create a corridor for wildlife species to flourish. The communities; Mobondah, Mai, Mokombo, Yellehand Sorbengi had lost a large forest cover due to slash and burn agriculture and logging. An action if not stopped will ultimately threaten water security and wildlife. In the areas of operations it was discovered that two secondary forests were intact and they were surrounded by mangroves that provided a home for a number of key wildlife species. The critically endangered western chimpanzees originally known to live in forests now use the mangrove-forest as home. Also on the list was the endangered Temne parrot, a parrot that imitates human vocalization.
Habitat destruction is one of the many threats faced by wildlife in Sierra Leone and the national animal is no exemption. Their homes are being destroyed at an alarming rate rendering them displaced or dead. The destruction of habitats does not only affect species but humans and the environment with high reduction of the biodiversity and animal population. Habitat destruction can cause an imbalance in the cycle of life disrupting the overall function of the natural systems of man’s survival.
A well- function system creates clean air, breaks down wastes, provides food and purifies our drinking water. We should know that wildlife species play a critical role in the ecosystem. In as much as there is a government pronouncement of chimps being the national animal of the country, their homes must be protected if we are to save the remaining number of these animals living in the wild. It is of importance to note that a good number of these chimpanzees live outside of protected areas making them more vulnerable and at a higher risk of population decline.
Furthermore, without a visible and more robust strategy in place to protect wildlife homes they will continue to disappear and rapidly.
Ten locals were trained as Bio-monitoring technicians by the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary to effectively patrol the forests, monitor threatening species and take valuable data. These technicians, without formal education, can now install information about their patrols using cyber-tracker device. Bio-Monitoring Technicians also sensitize their surrounding communities on the importance of the forest and the significance to establish a wildlife corridor. Community perception and attitudes towards conservation, wildlife and habitat protection and the environment has changed over the cause of the project.
Furthermore, information recorded by the technicians has helped to identify the reforestation of the wildlife corridor by connecting the two fragmented forest patches.
A group of chimpanzees were found living in one of the forests surrounded by mangrove. The family of chimpanzees had to adapt living in the mangrove as to their original home, the forest. The two patches of forests, Mai-Mokombo Forest (MMF) and Yelleh-Sorbengi Forest (YSF), are now been reserved by the five communities to allow a re-growth. The aim is to create one big forest and at the same time create a space for all the animals to live and be safe. Human wildlife-conflicts had been a challenge in these areas.
Notwithstanding, humans have now learned to live alongside wildlife bearing in mind the animals have the right to co-exists. Previously, the animals will have to roam around in search of food as massive agriculture and logging exercises were on going in the forests.
However, the five communities came together with support from Tacugama and its partners to establish a corridor connecting the two forest patches by engaging in tree planting, forest patrol and protection. The successful venture saw a reforestation exercise of 70,000 indigenous trees planted. These trees when grown into a forest will provide home to over 70 different species identified in the area.
The Paramount Chief, Robert Coker also known as Papapway was very instrumental in the project and had to name the group of chimpanzees living in the area. He went on to name the leader of the group ‘Papapuwe’ after his father. Women in these communities have been empowered to harvest oysters and engage in vegetable gardening. These are livelihood support programmes to boost local income and at the same time create awareness on proper resource management.
It is of the belief that well-managed forests will help boost community livelihood and security with a reduction in poverty and natural disasters triggered by man.