FREETOWN Sierra Leone outlawed the capture and
killing of chimpanzees on Wednesday, declaring a one-month
amnesty for anyone holding a chimp to hand it over to
authorities in the war-ravaged West African nation.
A statement from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and
Marine Resources read on national radio said anyone violating
the new regulations would face a fine of up to $1,000 or a
"It is now illegal by law to posses, capture, kill or keep
chimpanzees," said the statement.
"To provide the public sufficient time to surrender chimps
in their possession a month's notice is hereby given for chimps
to be handed over to the authorities."
The government has established a chimp orphanage at
Charlotte, in the outskirts of the coastal capital Freetown, to
receive chimps from the public.
Ecologists say Sierra Leone's wild chimpanzee population
has declined dramatically since around 20,000 in the 1970s as a
result of hunting, incursions on their territory and the trade
in pets and animals for scientific research.
Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war, during which
drug-fuelled rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)
hacked limbs off civilians, drove many of its 6 million
inhabitants from the countryside.
Conservationists say that wildlife populations, including
chimpanzees, recovered as a result of rural depopulation caused
by the war, but the return of villagers in the wake of a 2002
peace deal has resulted in the destruction of habitant, more
hunting, and trapping of rare animals for sale overseas.
The Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in the outskirts of
Freetown, which was closed last year after 30 of its chimps
escaped and killed a taxi driver, was reopened just four weeks