The epicenter for the Pan Verus Project is in the Outamba Kilimi National Park located in the far north of Sierra Leone. The Outamba Kilimi National Park is the oldest national park in Sierra Leone and was officially declared a protected area in 1995.
Creation of the park can be attributed to Dr. Geza Teleki who worked for years attempting to create a protected area that covered a transitional ecosystem with high biodiversity. Although Teleki left Sierra Leone before the park was officially founded, it would not exist without his hard work and dedication.
The park is split into two non-contiguous protected areas and contains both riverine forest and savanna habitats. The park contains the country’s last stronghold of forest elephants, common hippopotamus, and a large population of West African chimpanzees.
Currently the research at the Pan Verus Project includes topics such as mitigating the illegal wildlife trade, post-Ebola wildlife conservation, ethnoprimatology, sustainable agriculture, and ecotourism. By attempting to understand how major events in Sierra Leone, like the civil war and the Ebola outbreak, affected the culture surrounding natural resource use (anything from farming habits to using animals for traditional medicine practices) the Pan Verus Project hopes to work with local people create solutions for food insecurity and health issues which will also benefit the local environment through more sustainable farming practices and a decrease in illegal bushmeat hunting.
There have also been relatively few wildlife surveys done in Sierra Leone since the civil war, and only one which has included data from Outamba Kilimi National Park. The Pan Verus Project is working on setting up camera traps throughout the park to identify the species within the park to better understand the level of protection that this area requires. In 2020 we are expanding our efforts to include a survey specifically to investigate the presence of lions in the Outamba sections of the park. After years of reports of lions in the area, this will be the first effort to catch them on camera in the remote part of the park they are supposedly inhabiting.