Outamba-Kilimi National Park

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West Africa > Sierra Leone > Outamba-Kilimi National Park



Species Pop. Size Trend Data Quality


Outamba Kilimi NP
Outamba Kilimi NP

Outamba Kilimi National Park is currently the only national park in Sierra Leone. Located in the far north of Sierra Leone on the border with Guinea, it is divided into the larger Outamba section (783 km2) in the east and Kilimi section (274 km2) in the west of northern Bombali district. The terrain is relatively flat with low rolling hills or plateaus which offer excellent views across the spectacular landscape. The eastern side of Outamba is more varied, with more hills reaching 300-400 m elevation. Vegetation is primarily southern Guinea savanna woodland with trees such as Lophira and Daniellia. A small proportion of the area is made up of forest, narrow riverine forest, or small patches of savanna. The savanna grasses are primarily a tall elephant grass which is burned annually by people in the park. Almost all areas of the park are affected by the burning.

The site supports at least nine species of primates including Western Chimpanzee, red colobus, black and white colobus, sooty mangabey, and olive baboons. The total number of bird species recorded in the park is 220. A small population of forest elephant occurs at Outamba. Other large mammals include leopard, pygmy hippopotamus, water chevrotain, Maxwell’s duiker, and forest buffalo.

Both sections of the reserve are located within one chiefdom, Tambakha, the least populated of all chiefdoms in the country. Both sections were first proposed by the Government of Sierra Leone in 1965 as two separate game reserves. After Outamba and Kilimi were proposed as game reserves, wildlife dealer Franz Sitter intensified hunting there, hiring a white Kenyan hunter and many locals, to try to take as much wildlife as possible from the area before it could be protected (Teleki 1985). In 1976 Franz Sitter’s outpost in Tambakha chiefdom was closed down due to local disputes about payments for specimens.

In the 1980s Dr Geza Teleki spent many years in the region planning for the establishment of a national park with support from IUCN and WWF. A detailed provisional management plan was completed in 1986 and submitted to the government. However, conflicts with local people residing within the demarcated areas posed considerable problems with implementation. Considerable attention was given to resettlement of villages located within the boundaries with a lack of consideration given to traditional Susu ties to the land. Therefore the plan met with great resistance and problems have persisted to this day.

Woodland savanna and riverine forest in Outamba Kilimi NP
Woodland savanna and riverine forest in Outamba Kilimi NP
Young elephant grass and open woodland in Outamba Kilimi NP
Young elephant grass and open woodland in Outamba Kilimi NP
Chimpanzee nests overlooking the Guinea border
Chimpanzee nests overlooking the Guinea border

Ape status

Home to around 20% of Sierra Leone’s chimpanzees, Outamba-Kilimi National Park is the area of second-most importance for chimpanzees in the country after the Loma Mountains. Earlier estimates on chimpanzee populations for Outamba-Kilimi National Park were close to current estimates. Harding (1984) estimated a chimpanzee density of 0.3 chimpanzee/km2 and a total population of 49-60 individuals, while the 2010 study found a density of 0.27 chimpanzees/km2 and population size of around 74 individuals. Although initial estimates of 200-300 individuals for Outamba were low, the idea that the population there could be as high as 600-700 (Hanson-Alp et al., 2003) was closer to the estimate of around 950 chimpanzees found in the 2010 study. It is likely that populations used to be much higher before wildlife dealers heavily hunted in the area in the 1960s and 1970s. The total population of OKNP is estimated to be 1,020 (95% CI=658-1,596) chimpanzees.

Chimp density per transect in OKNP
Chimp density per transect in OKNP

Year Estimated Number of Individuals Source Comments
2010 74 (Kilimi), 950 (Outamba) Brncic et al. 2010 ..
1984 49-60 (Kilimi), 600-700 (Outamba) Harding 1984, Hanson-Alp et al. 2003 Non-systematic surveys


Currently there is no real income reaching human communities in the park except for trade in bushmeat and some chili pepper plantations. The observations of the census team and reports from the park guards suggest that guns are regularly brought from Guinea into the park, and in fact one such gun trader was encountered moving through the park in May 2009. In the north of Outamba and parts of Kilimi, much trading goes on across the border to Guinea and the currency of choice is the West African Franc. Nascent gold mining efforts in the east of Outamba may pose a new threat to biodiversity and water quality. Despite this, large areas of the Outamba section seem to be mostly unaffected by people and wildlife still seems abundant in the park.

Human signs in OKNP
Human signs in OKNP
Major Threats Outamba-Kilimi NP
Poaching yes
Disease no
Agriculture no
Logging no
Mining not yet

Conservation activities

Currently the Forestry Ministry maintains a forest guard station at the headquarters of both the Outamba and Kilimi sections of the park. However, logistical support is low for the small number of forest guards and conflict with the local communities is high, limiting their effectiveness. Some facilities for tourists are available at the Outamba headquarters. However, the distance and poor road conditions from the capital mean that very few tourists reach OKNP, and visitor fees do not reach or benefit local communities.

Conservation actions Outamba-Kilimi NP
Law Enforcement yes
Long-term Research no
Permanent Monitoring Program no
Education no
Public Awareness Campaign yes
Ecotourism yes


Outamba Kilimi National Park was surveyed in 2009 and 2010 as part of the Sierra Leone National Chimpanzee Census Project. SLNCCP Final Report 2010 A pilot study in the western part of Outamba and the southern part of Kilimi was carried out in May 2009. The main survey took place in OKNP in February and March 2010, during the dry season. A total of 27 transects of 2 km length were walked in Outamba section and 17 transects were walked in the Kilimi section for a total of 86 km of transects.

As part of their 1979-1980 nationwide chimpanzee survey, Teleki and Baldwin spent two months in Outamba-Kilimi National Park (Teleki and Baldwin 1981). They thought the proposed national park had perhaps the largest population of chimpanzees in the country, though exact figures are not available.

In a study done in 1983 in the Kilimi section of the park, chimpanzees were recorded on an ad hoc basis wherever encountered and plotted on a map (Harding 1984). Feeding sites were visited where chimpanzees were thought to frequent and pre-selected routes were walked by field teams and all observations recorded. Chimpanzee signs and sightings led to the estimation of 5 groups of chimpanzees using the Kilimi section with a total population assumed to be 49-60 individuals. Estimated density was approximately 0.3 chimpanzees/km2.

Alp’s 1989 field survey of wild chimpanzees in central Outamba confirmed there to be high populations occurring throughout this section of the park. During her fieldwork from 1991 to 1994 in Tenkere, Outamba, 18 individuals were recognizable, a total of 27 individuals were observed in a group at one particular time, and the largest number of nests encountered at once was 24 (Alp, unpublished data). A minimum of 27 individuals made up the Tenkere community, living within a range of at least 30 km2, but it was thought that the Tenkere community population size was much larger. The chimpanzee population size in Outamba was estimated by Alp to be between 200–300 individuals. Given that Outamba offers a richer habitat for chimpanzees than the less-forested Kilimi, which is predominantly savanna and more populated by humans, Outamba was thought to potentially harbour a population of approximately 600–700 chimpanzees (Kormos et al. 2003).


  • Brncic, T.M., B. Amarasekaran, A. McKenna, (2010) Final report of the Sierra Leone National Chimpanzee Census Project. Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. 118pp.
  • Hanson-Alp, R., M.I. Bakarr, A. Lebbie, and K.I. Bangura, 2003. Sierra Leone. In: West African Chimpanzees. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Kormos, R., Boesch, C., Bakarr, M.I., and Butynski, T., eds. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Pp. 77-88.
  • Harding, R.S.O., 1984. Primates of the Kilimi area, northwest Sierra Leone. Folia Primatologica, 42:96-114.
  • Teleki, G. 1980. Hunting and trapping wildlife in Sierra Leone: aspects of exploitation and exportation. Freetown, Special Report to MAF.
  • Teleki, G. 1985. A brief chronology of nature conservation in Sierra Leone (1900-1985).
  • Teleki, G., 1989. Population status of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and threats to survival. Understanding Chimpanzees. P.G. Heltne and L.A. marquardt (eds). Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
  • Teleki, G. and L. Baldwin, 1981. Sierra Leone’s Wildlife Legacy: Options for survival. Zoonooz 54(10): 21-27.
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