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Pet Sins July 2009

Bala Amarasekaran, Founder of the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Bala Amasekaran, an ethnic Sri Lankan who had lived in Sierra Leone since childhood, established the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in 1995 with the goal of integrating orphaned chimpanzees into social groups and gradually rehabilitating them into a semi-wild environment.

Bala's road to chimpanzee rescue and conservation began in 1988 when he and his wife Sharmila were travelling through a village about 150 miles north of Freetown. They saw a baby chimpanzee, apparently in weak condition, being offered for sale. Bala and Sharmila, out of compassion for the animal's fate, bought him and cared for him, naming him Bruno. They soon came to realize that Bruno was only the tip of the iceberg - part of a larger problem of captive chimps being kept in appalling conditions.

After connecting with individual researchers and the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone, Bala quit his accounting job and established the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary based on the belief that both aspects of the chimpanzee problem had to be addressed - the human aspect of selling and keeping of chimps, which hopefully could be remedied by education and law enforcement, and the animal aspect of re-integrating the chimpanzees into the forest.

The work of Bala Amarasekaran and his staff has been featured in the Nation Geographic program Jungle Breakout.

How We Began (Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary official site)
About Bala on wildlifedirect.org
Tacugama Chimp Sanctuary on visitsierraleone.org
Five Minutes in Freetown … Adventures in Sierra Leone, West Africa on gorilla-haven.org