By Abubakarr Harding
The Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Nabeela Tunis, officially inaugurated the National Animal Week at a Cocktail ceremony held on the 20th November 2023 at Country Lodge Hotel in Freetown. The Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, in collaboration with Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, is organizing the National Animal Week to raise awareness about the critical state of the Chimpanzee, recognized as Sierra Leone’s National Animal and the face of tourism.
The week-long event will be filled with a variety of activities aimed at providing a platform for Sierra Leoneans to express their views and appreciation for the benefits of protecting their national animal. The initiative also encourages Government officials and agencies to actively participate in the cause, utilizing the National Animal Week to lobby for wildlife law reforms and policy changes.
Additionally, the event aims to showcase the beauty of Sierra Leone’s wildlife and landscape, raise awareness for the Chimpanzee and the threats they face and reshape the narrative around the national animal.
In his statement, Bala Amarasekaran, the Founder of Tacugama Chimps Sanctuary, emphasized the celebration of the symbol of the country’s rich biodiversity, the Chimpanzee. He reminded the audience that despite the declaration of the Chimpanzee as the national animal in 2019, threats to Chimps persist.
Amarasekaran highlighted Tacugama’s expanded focus, evolving into a powerhouse of conservation that extends beyond the welfare of Chimps to encompass the protection of the entire forest and its inhabitants. He concluded by urging everyone to embark on a journey to secure a future where the national animal thrives, and the beauty of Sierra Leone’s wildlife continues to captivate the world.
Minister Nabeela Tunis officially launched the Animal Week, stating that the week-long celebration of the diverse and incredible fauna is the hallmark of what makes Sierra Leone unique.
She emphasized that the declaration of the Western Chimpanzee as the national animal symbolizes not just the species but the commitment to conservation, understanding, and co-existence.
Minister Tunis called for reflection on the inter-connectiveness of all the Line MDA’s, noting that the Western Chimpanzee reminds them of the delicate balance of nature and the importance of preserving their ecosystem.
The Minister of Environment, Jiwoh Abdulai, the Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, and the General Manager of the National Tourist Board, Fatmata Hamid Carew, all made valuable contributions during the launch, emphasizing the importance of collective responsibility to protect vital habitats and engage in activities promoting environmental stewardship, tree planting, wildlife education and reforestation initiatives.