The Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Nabeela Tunis has officially launched the National Animal Week at a Cocktail ceremony held at Country Lodge Hotel in Freetown. The Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs in collaboration with Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary is commemorating the National Animal Week to raise awareness about the critical state of Chimpanzee and its recognition as Sierra Leone’s National Animal and face of tourism.
The week-long event is packed with variety of activities to provide a platform for Sierra Leoneans to express their views and appreciation for the benefits of protecting their national animal, encourage government officials and agencies to actively participate in the cause, utilize national animal week to lobby for wildlife law reforms and policy changes, 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, the Founder of Tacugama Chimps Sanctuary, Bala Amarasekaran noted that they were gathered to celebrate the symbol of the country’s rich biodiversity, the Chimpanzee. “It was in 2019 that the Chimpanzee was rightfully declared the national animal of Sierra Leone, our government, recognized them as not only a symbol of our nation but also as the face of tourism, despite such declaration and awareness, the threats to Chimps perist.” he said.
He maintained that Tacugama has evolved into a powerhouse of conservation, expanding its focus beyond the welfare of Chimps to encompass the protection of the entire forest and its inhabitants. He ended on a call to embark on a journey to secure a future where their national animal thrives and the beauty of Sierra Leon’s wildlife continues to captivate the world.
Officially launching the Animal Week, Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Nabeela Tunis said the commencement of the week-long celebration of the diverse and incredible fauna is the hallmark of what makes Sierra Leone unique. She said the declaration of the Western Chimpanzee as their national animal by President Bio symbolizes not just the species but the commitment to conservation, understanding and co-existence. She 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.
She intimated that through education and awareness, they can foster a collective responsibility to protect vital habitats and the engagement of activities that promote environmental stewardship, tree planting, wildlife education and creating initiatives to foster reforestation.
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 contribution during the launch.