Truth is stranger than fiction
Bruno and Bala
|Lucius, the alpha male chimp in Africa Greene is based on Bruno, the first chimp rescued by the Tacugama Sanctuary in Sierra Leone. In 1989. Accountant Bala Amarasekaran and his wife Sharmila were in a small village 150 kilometres north of the capital Freetown when they saw a young male chimpanzee for sale. They paid US$30 to rescue the animal and raised it in their home. After they rescued a second chimpanzee, Jane Goodall, a world reknowned expert, advised them to set up a sanctuary for abandoned and rescued chimps. With the help of land from the government, the Amarasekarans soon had 24 chimpanzees at the sanctuary.|
Somehow, the santuary escaped the worst of the civil war and thrived. Bruno grew to be an imposing and unusual size for his species. He became the leader of the abandoned chimps. I saw Bruno when I visited the sanctuary in 2003 and we had to duck because he threw stones at us. In April 2006, 31 chimpanzees escaped from the sanctuary led by Bruno. Unfortunately they came in contact with four men who were in a taxi on their way to visit the sanctuary. In the ensuing chaos, one man was killed and the others injured as the chimps attacked them. Of the chimpanzees that escaped, 27 soon returned, but Bruno was among the four that did not. He has never been seen again, but images of him living with wild chimpanzees have been captured on wildlife cameras.
Prospects look gloomy for the wild chimps of Sierra Leone. In the early 1970s an estimated 20,000 of them lived there. Today there are only around 5,000. More than 100 are in the sanctuary at Tacugama. If you are interested, you can support the Tacugama centre’s work. This now includes visits to local schools and rural communities to raise awareness of the need to protect chimpanzees and their habitat
PJ in Sierra Leone
In 2003, I visited Sierra Leone to work in the diamond fields, just after the peace treaty had been signed ending the civil war. The country was still devastated, and the roads were lined with burned-out cars and villages. People were traumatised, and the evidence of rebel brutality could be seen every where, especially in the amputated limbs of the beggars in Freetown. I used material from my visits there to write The Star of Simbako and Africa Green While I was staying in Freetown, I drove out to the Tacugama Sanctuary to visit the chimps. On our way back from the sanctuary, we had a puncture. Some Nigerian peacekeepers helped us to change the tire. They insisted on taking a photograph with me. Sierra Leone is a lovely country and I still hope to go back some day.
I am researching a third book for the Green Family Saga, which will follow Liz Green as she escapes her troubles in London and moves back to Ireland to rescue a large country house. I am also writing a murder mystery set in space, of which more later.
Enjoy Africa Green. I think it’s my best yet.
Enjoy the lovely Autumnal weather.