The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security has been accused of paying less attention to the conservation of wildlife and forestry in the Western Peninsular.
Founder and Director of the Tacugama Sanctuary at Bathurst in the Western Peninsular, Bala Amara-Sekaran, made this disclosure in an exclusive interview with Concord Times. He said the Sanctuary is government owned and directly under the supervision of the Wild Life Conservation unit in the Ministry of Agriculture but that since it started operation in 1995, government has been unwilling to allocate a budget for its running.
"It is through my initiative that I keep running this Sanctuary," lamented Mr. Amara-Sekaran. "This is a government owned entity but all responsibilities have been left on my shoulders. There is no government budgetary allocation to run the Sanctuary."
He added: "I have about one hundred chimpanzees plus 30 employees to take care of. But I am a philanthropist as well as a patriotic citizen with the zest to complement the President's agenda in conserving the environment."
The wildlife specialist said the Agriculture ministry is focusing more attention on food production with a meagre budget being allocated to wildlife and forest conservation, noting that he has to engage in so many fund-raising activities to keep the Sanctuary running.
"I use fees paid by visitors and the revenue generated from the resort to sustain the Sanctuary. I also embark on eco-tourism and other fund-raising activities to keep this place running," he said.
Regarding the protection of the forest and water catchments, Amara-Sekaran said funds are directly coming from the European Union for the upkeep of the forest guards who patrol the environment, but expressed worries that such funding would soon end.
"It is the President's agenda to provide enough and potable water for the citizenry but how would this be possible when the water catchments are being destroyed," he questioned. "We are still engaging the government on how to sustain the welfare of the forest guards so that the water catchments would continue to be protected."
The Sanctuary, he maintained, is playing a pivotal role in protecting the forest and the water catchments in the area, while also contributing to educating students of all class about the essence of wildlife conservation.
"I am now a Sierra Leonean and would not sit by and allow people to destroy the dream of the President. If any forest is protected here, it is because of Tacugama," he said and called on the government to pay more attention to the running of the Sanctuary and make it more viable.
"Twenty years back, I sold this idea to the government with the hope that I would spend only three years to lay the foundation, but everything has been left on my shoulders," he said. "Government should come onboard and help make this entity an enviable one."