Tiwai is a 12 km2 forested island in the Moa River in southeastern Sierra Leone, at the western end of the Upper Guinea forest region of West Africa. This region has both high species richness and high levels of species endemism. The Guinean rain forest of West Africa is one of 25 ‘biodiversity hotspots’ in the world, and has the highest mammalian diversity of any tropical forest Tiwai Island is a Wildlife Sanctuary under Sierra Leonean law, and hunting on the island is prohibited but limited forest-product harvesting is allowed under the current management plan. Historically there has been low-intensity slash-and-burn farming on the island that has created a mosaic of vegetation types, of which the most widespread is old secondary rain forest.

Tiwai (Mende word for ‘big island’) is especially well known for its primates, including the endangered western chimpanzees, seven species of forest monkey, and two prosimians. These primates are featured in a documentary (“Tiwai: Island of the Apes”) produced by Survival Anglia and released in 1991. A primate ecology research project began at Tiwai in 1982, and studies subsequently broadened to include other mammals, forest dynamics, the ethology of river fish, soil chemistry, and the use by local people of forest resources. Research activities are based at a Field Research Station run collaboratively by Njala College (University of Sierra Leone), Hunter College (City University of New York), and the University of Miami. Scientists from bases in North America, Europe and Japan have visited the station, which provides employment to the local community and which has been used as a site for Njala College field courses.

Post-conflict research has been undertaken mainly by Sierra Leonean undergraduate and graduate students with funds provided by the Criticl Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and has included a wide range of inventory – collecting baseline and comparative data [after the almost decade-long civil conflict ]on avifauna, a full inventory of the flora of Tiwai, rattans, ecotourism, gap analysis, monitoring of mammals through photo-trapping, reassessment of the primate population, amphibian and insect surveys.The Tiwai research station is one component of a multiple-use system that also includes a visitors’ facility. Management and coordination of the facilities on Tiwai is overseen by the Tiwai Island Administrative Committee (TIAC), which works through a Secretariat based in Freetown. TIAC includes representatives of the local community (there are eight host communities surrounding Tiwai Island, Sierra Leonean government, other stakeholder organizations and the project implementing institutions Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA) and Njala University College (NUC).

The University of Sierra Leone (USL) in association with Hunter College and the University of Miami (U.S.A.) formally established the Tiwai Island Field Research Station (“The Research Station”) in 1988. This establishment was the outcome of a conference hosted by the Department of Biological Sciences, Njala University College (NUC), in June 1987. The management objectives of the Research Station are primarily to provide:

  1. A base for biological and conservation-oriented research and training at Tiwai; and
  2. Administrative and logistical support to researchers and students using the station

Management of the Research Station is the responsibility of a Research Station Management Committee (RSMC), which is a sub-committee of TIAC. The RSMC Committee develops and ensures compliance with station operating policies, subject to approval by TIAC.

The Research Station Committee is chaired by the Research Coordinator and also includes:

  • A representative of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, FBC
  • TIAC Secretariat Coordinator
  • The Station Manager

The Station Manager co-ordinates day-to-day activities at the stationWith funds from Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), post conflict reconstruction of Tiwai Research Station has been spear headed by The Environmental Foundation for Africa in collaboration with Njala University College (NUC) and Tiwai Island Administrative Committee (TIAC)

The Tiwai Island Field Station was before the disruption of the almost decade long civil conflict operated under a consortium arrangement between a number of academic institutions. The founding members of the consortium were Njala University College of the University of Sierra Leone, Hunter College of the City University of New York and University of Miami. The members of the consortium determined the operating policy of the station. This research station committee wishes to reopen membership of the consortium to interested institutions and to encourage a wide range of scientific research on Tiwai Island. To ensure that research activities do not conflict with either the operation of the station or with the management of the Sanctuary, it is necessary for prospective researchers to follow a formal application procedure to obtain permission for their work. The costs of maintaining the station and sanctuary also necessitate that researchers be charged for their visit. Two sets of charges apply: consortium members and non-consortium members. Institutions interested in joining the consortium would be required to pay an annual fee (currently $3,000), and should write to the Coordinator of Research at the Njala University College (see contact details on last page)

All research projects must be approved by a Scientific Advisory Board (which will consider whether the proposed research is feasible or whether it is in conflict with ongoing research and management activities) and by a Station Administrator who will consider whether accommodation and other facilities required by the researchers are available at the time of the proposed research project. In the first instance a short statement of intent (1-2 pages) should be sent to the Research Coordinator at least six months prior to the proposed starting date of the research project. This statement should include the following information.

  1. The aims of the study and the methods of investigation to be used
  2. The timing and duration of the study,
  3. Equipment to be provided by the researcher,
  4. Equipment/facilities sought from the station, including staffing needs (e.g. fishermen, trailcutters and other field assistants)
  5. Previous research experience under similar conditions.

From this information, it will be determined whether or not the proposed project may be feasible at Tiwai. If the project is provisionally approved, a more detailed research proposal will be solicited. This proposal should contain full details of methods and a discussion of the significance of the study, together with any modifications suggested by the Scientific Advisory Board and Administration. This proposal must be received at least three months before the start of the study. Once this full proposal is approved, a $100 non-refundable deposit will be requested from non-consortium members to reserve their space. Note that researchers from consortium institutions will have priority in space allocations at times when space is limited.


Institutions participating in the Tiwai Field Station consortium contribute $3,000 per year; an exception is the University of Sierra Leone, which contributes “in kind” through providing local sponsorship and administrative support. Researchers from participating institutions are not charged site use fees.

Researchers from non-consortium institutions will be charged the following site-use fees per individual for projects commencing in 2008.

  • $2,500 for one year
  • $1,500 for six months
  • $750 for three months
  • $250 for one month
  • $100 for one week or part of one week

These fees will be reviewed annually, or at such interval as the administration deems necessary. A portion of these fees (and of consortium members contributions) will go towards management of the wildlife sanctuary.

The main entrance point to the Tiwai Island is from the small village of Kambama, from there is a motor boat or canoe available to the Island across the Moa River. The nearest town to Kambama is Potoru which is 15km this is the Barri Chiefdom headquarter town. Potoru is 52km from the Provincial capital Bo, and Bo is approximately 150km from Freetown and 30km from Kenema (the capital of Kenema District). The road to Potoru from Bo is paved to Bandajuma and then unpaved to Kambama. The Potoru-Kambama road is a narrow stretch road through secondary forest. This makes driving challenging, especially during the wet season. The road from Freetown to Bo is currently being paved so the drive time is reducing and is currently approximately 3 hours. Limited supplies can be purchased from Potoru. In Bo most food supplies, Mende books, and general basic supplies can all be purchased. (For more information to getting around see Transportation below).

A dormitory to house 15 student-researchers is completed. Accommodation provided is a basic room with a bed, bedding (mattress, pillow, sheets and blanket- all you need), a chair and a table. Some rooms will have desks cupboards and mosquito nets. The Station Manager will endeavour to provide each long-term researcher a room of his/her own. Priority will be given to consortium members. Short-term visitors or assistants to researchers may be required to share. The dormitory has WC toilets and showers situated indoors. Several platforms are also available for insect-screened tents and could be used for a nominal fee of $3 / day. Several pit latrines are in use. In addition to the dormitory, there are two permanent structures at the Station. One of them houses a screened laboratory, office and store. The second structure has a kitchen, store and dining / meeting area for up to 30 persons. The laboratory is available without charge to members of participating institutions; other researchers will be charged a bench fee equivalent to 20% of their site-use fee. Use of the office will be restricted to station staff. The library can be used without charge.Use of the communal shelters in which people sit, work and eat at the Field Station is included in the consortium and site-use fees. Furniture in these buildings is not to be moved to researchers’ own areas; if they need extra furniture they can pay to have it built, depending on the availability of carpenters.Subject to availability of rooms, institutions participating in the consortium will each have access at all times to one for their researchers, at no charge, with space for one person in a tent available free for up to one month in any six-month period. Any room or tent accommodation beyond this will be charged at the rate of $10 and $3 per person per day on a space available basis; this includes a simple bed and mattress, for the rooms. Mattress for tents may be available for an extra $1 per day. The site-use fee paid by researchers from non-participating institutions includes a room with a free bed and mattress and a mattress in a tent for up to one month in any six-month period, subject to space being available. After this, there is a charge of $3.50 per person per day, with a mattress charge of $1.50 per day.Alternatively, researchers may bring their own tents, which can be pitched free of charge under existing shelters if these are available.

Water is pumped from a nearby well using a generator, and there is a tank on a tower to store this. Piped water is available in the toilet block and kitchen. Water can be fetched from a hand pump in Kambama village which can be boiled or filtered for drinking; this is included in the site-use/consortium fees. You can also buy bottled water from the visitor’s camp on the Island. Those needing extra water supplies for their work must make their own arrangement for water. This must involve purchasing containers and employing local labor to fill them.

Food and laundry are not provided and each individual is expected to buy their own. Although a limited range of food can be obtained in Potoru, about 15 km from Tiwai, many items must be brought in from Bo (around 90 km) or from Freetown. Very little food can be bought in the immediate vicinity of Tiwai and dried large stocks of food are not kept at the station. Research officers therefore, are expected to arrive at the station with enough food for at least the first two weeks of their stay. Individuals may make communal arrangements to obtain food with other residents of the station. Special trips cannot be made by station staff to provide food for individual researchers. Visitors should come prepared to pay for food, transport, soap, kerosene for lighting and toilet paper. Cooking by staff or locals is done over a wood-burning stove but snacks and hot drinks can be prepared on kerosene / gas stoves for convenienceA limited range of cooking and eating utensils are available at the station free of charge. Long term researchers are encouraged to bring with them any special utensils or equipment that they might need. It is a requirement that damage caused by a researcher to any utensils or equipment provided at the station, replaced them in cash or kind.Researchers from participating institutions will have free use of a communal gas or kerosene stove; otherwise wood fires are used for cooking. Researchers from non-participating institutions will be charged $1 per day for stove use, whilst cooking is done by them or an employee (or they can bring their own stove)Researchers may employ their own staff or pay existing staff (if their services are available) to assist with cooking, dishwashing and laundry. These services are not provided for in any of the fees. Bring your own soap. Local labour costs are approximately $3 per person per day.

The research camp is powered by solar electricity. Solar powered lighting is provided in all the buildings at the camp. In the case of a faulty system, a limited number of non-pressure (hurricane) lamps are also available for individual use at no cost to consortium members; others will be charged at the rate of $1 per week. Otherwise, researchers may bring their own lamps. Kerosene fuel for individual lamps is not provided; it should be brought in or purchased from the station manager (if supplies are available) at cost.

The following research facilities are available at the Field Station:

  1. Small library (a list of holdings is available on request to the Coordinator)
  2. Office space
  3. Store and Kitchen with solar fridge
  4. A small laboratory
  5. A herbarium of specimens collected from Tiwai Island Forest. A computer file lists the species in the herbarium

Generally researchers are encouraged to bring their own equipment and materials. We also encourage researchers to leave behind as much as they can for the Project. Please contact the coordinator for more information on particular items.
There is at the moment Celtel coverage (Celtel is a mobile telephone company) in strategic locations at the research camp, West river bank and in Kambama Village. There is also a portable Celtel modem that you can buy for about $180 and a monthly recharge fee for about $60 to $70. With this you can access the internet wherever there is Celtel coverage. However for speed and easy access, Potoru is the best and closest place from Tiwai.

All complaints of any kind whatsoever should be made in the first instance to the Station Manager or the designated person in charge

A generator will not be needed when the solar is working well, but to serve as a back-up a small petrol (gasoline) fuelled generator may be used free by members of participating institutions for up to 5 hours per week, when it is not in use for station operations. Non-consortium members get 1 hour per week of free use in their site fee. Further use will be charged at the rate of $3.50 per hour or part-hour. All members must supply their own fuel. No visitor or researcher may use the generator without first receiving instructions from a member of the station staff trained and authorized to use the equipment.

At the station, a limited grid of trails is kept open in the southern half of Tiwai Island for research and management purposes. In two areas of intensive study, alternative trails of a basic 50-meter grid (i.e. at 100m intervals) are maintained by station staff. Use of these trails is included in site use consortium fees. Reopening of old trails, and the opening of new ones (which must fit the existing grid and be permitted by the station manager), as well as the maintenance of such extra trails, must be paid for by researchers through the employment of local labor. For this and other field assistance, members of the existing labor force may be employed (if their services are available) by arrangement with the station manager. If such labor is not available, management will help researchers in the hiring of other assistance, but labor availability cannot be guaranteed.

The nearest hospitals are in Bo, and Kenema (75 km); Western Standard medical facilities are only available in Freetown. There is a Health Center in Potoru this is permanently staffed and provides basic medical care. There is also a clinic at Vaama which is 3km from Kambama (and is on the road to Portoru) this provides very limited services as a base for one nurse who visits the local communities. There are no ambulance services in the Tiwai area. Simple first aid materials and drugs are kept on site, but researchers are advised to bring their own medical kit and any particular supplies that might be needed in connection with their own project or state of health. Malaria is very common so it is wise to consult your Doctor to advise you on prophylaxis medicine and other vaccination.

Station records on Tiwai climate, plant phenology, trail and tree marks are available for inspection. Other research papers and student dissertations are also available. A computer file lists the plants of Tiwai and a herbarium collection is also available. If any of this information is used in reports (whether published or not) full credit must be given to the individuals responsible for collecting the original data.

The Tiwai research and visitor centre currently operates a Toyota Hilux (Twin cab) 4×4 vehicle and two boats with Honda outboard motors (20hp and 30hp). The vehicle, acquired through project funds provided by Critical Ecosystem partnership Fund (CEPF), is not available for everyday use by researchers and visitors to the Island. However visitors may be transported in medical emergencies or be given a ride when regular staff are on official trips. Any researchers needing frequent use of a vehicle are strongly urged to make their own vehicle rental arrangements in Freetown, Bo, or Kenema. With advance notice, EFA can advise or assist researchers in making these rental arrangements.
Potoru can be reached by public transport (small trucks) from Bo and Kenema, but this mode of transport is slow and unreliable. Sometimes, vehicles can be chartered to travel the 15 km from Potoru to Kambama, but such a charter is often hard to arrange and expensive. For transport between Kambama and the field station, canoes and a boatman can usually but not always be hired in Kambama. Depending on the season, the canoes can take you to within a few 100 yards of the station or to the visitor center landing, which is about a half-mile walk from the field station. Arrangements for canoes should be made with the town chief in Kambama, or his representative.
Except in cases of emergency, the project vehicles listed above are to be operated for official purposes only. Other personnel, their luggage and/or mail and messages can only be transported in the course of normal operations by field station staff. Such operations are likely to involve an average of one – two motor boat trips per week between the field station and Kambama, two rounds trips to Bo per month and one round trip to Freetown per month. Provided the needs of researchers and other visitors do not interfere unduly with official duties, EFA/NUC/Tiwai staff may adjust the precise timing of their trips to assist researchers with their transportation needs. On these trips, passengers from institutions participating in the consortium and their luggage will be charged only for a fair share of fuel costs (petrol / diesel costs approximately $4 per gallon, but this price is subject to fluctuations, which currently are showing an upward trend). Non-consortium researchers will be asked to pay road transportation charges of $5 between Bo and Kambama and $15 between Kambama and Freetown per passenger including luggage of one average sized bag or carton (up to 20kg). Additional luggage will be charged at the rate of $0.50 per kilo to a maximum of 100 kilos for travel between Freetown and Kambama.Every visiting researcher’s first trip from Kambama to the field station in any one six-month period will be provided free of charge by motor boat as well as their final trip from the station to Kambama. Non-consortium members will be generally restricted to travel during the normal staff operations refered to above. Under these conditions, use of the boat by consortium members is free, while non-consortium members will be charged at the rate of $5 per round-trip between the field station and Kambama for themselves and for their luggage and equipment. Those who are not station staff should not operate the boat themselves, but long-term residents will be taught how, in the event that they need to use the boat in an emergency.Should persons other than staff cause the loss of, or damage to any project equipment (including transport equipment) during its operations, the user will be responsible for repairing or replacing the equipment.

REPORTS At the end of a short research visit (less than 6 months), a brief report should be left with the station managers before departure from Tiwai. This report should state:1. What was done, including a note of what original goals / objectives were fulfilled or not fulfilled,2. Main features of data collected (e.g., sample sixes and or species list, number of hours of observation, etc),3. An indication of the significance or value of the research as far as is known. Researchers engaged in longer projects (greater than 6 months) would be expected to furnish progress reports to the station manager, administrator and director.These progress reports should be similar in scope to reports that would be furnished to a granting agency. Data in these reports (other than general information about what the researcher is doing) will not be published or circulated without the researcher’s written permission.Within 6 months of leaving Tiwai, all researchers are expected to furnish a detailed report on their work in triplicate (one copy to be kept at the field station, one at Njala University College, and one for the Research coordinator). This report should contain some information resulting from the analysis and interpretation of data or observations collected on Tiwai. Should data and or specimens still be the subject of analysis at this time, mention should be made in a preliminary report, together with an indication as to when a final report will be forthcoming. In due course, copies of any publications resulting from research at Tiwai should also be furnished.

REGULATIONS REGARDING USE OF THE PROJECT VEHICLES, INFLATABLE BOATS AND MOTORBIKE1. The Tiwai research and visitor centre currently operates a Toyota Hilux (Twin cab) 4×4 vehicle and is comprehensively. The vehicle, acquired through project funds provided by Critical Ecosystem partnership Fund (CEPF), is not available for everyday use by researchers and visitors to the Island. However visitors may be transported in medical emergencies or be given a ride when regular staff are on official trips.2. Inflatable and Fiber boats: The project operates two inflatable and 1 fiber boat. One of the boats (20hp) is exclusively for Research. The Research Coordinator coordinates the use of the boat is operated by a project staff. Long term researchers could be trained in the use of the boats. 3. Motorcycle. This is primarily for use by Project staff but in the event of emergencies permission for the use of the motorbike could be requested from the Project officer.4.Emergencies. An emergency is defined as a situation in which unless action is taken immediately the life of a person (any person, not necessarily a project employee) is in danger. In such a situation, any person who is able to drive one of the project vehicles or motorbike may use it to take the sick or injured person to hospital, or to a clinic from where they can get onward transport to hospital if needed.5. All use of any project vehicle, motorbike and boats must be for project business only. Use for personal purposes or pleasure is not allowed except by special arrangement with the Station Manager at a cost stipulated by the Manager.

6. When visitors or researchers are at camp, a Project vehicle or motorbike should always be left at Kambama for emergencies7. Besides use in emergencies a vehicle may occasionally be needed for essentials, such as food. Where this can be foreseen, the Station Manager should make the necessary arrangements for the use of the vehicle.8 Students and staff are free to accompany the Research Coordinator at his convenience, by prior arrangement. The Research Coordinator, or Station Manager will endeavour to advise camp when and where he will be traveling with the vehicle to see how he can accommodate others. 9 Overnight accommodation is available at Bo and Potoru, at the EFA office and Guest Houses at reasonable rates if an early start is needed from these places.

If anyone encounters any of the following in the forest (or anywhere) it is important that they inform the Station Manager for appropriate measures. Visitors and researchers are not allowed to handle sick, injured or dead animals on their own. The Station Manager will get the services of a qualified vet

Some diseases carried by man are transmissible to wildlife especially primates. Any visitor or student going into the forest may encounter wildlife. It is therefore imperative that if you have a cold or a cough or any other transmissible disease you do not go into the forest until you have fully recovered. Remember that diseases we can handle may be fatal to wildlife and vice versa. At other sites chimpanzees have been severely affected by viruses and bacteria brought in by human beings and chimpanzees are also known to transmit Ebola fever to humans and anthrax.


ALL STUDENTS AND RESEARCHERS MUST SIGN THIS PAGE AND RETURN IT TO THE RESEARCH COORDINATOR I have read the information in the preceding pages and agree to comply with the terms laid out. I also hereby release the Tiwai Wildlife Sanctuary, its Coordinator and other staff, from any and all liability for damages arising from illness, injury and/or death, and loss of property arising out of or connected with the Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary Project, its Coordinator and staff.

Name in capitals ………………………………………………………….

Signed ……………………………………………………………….

Date ………………………………………………………………….

Dr. Aiah Lebbie
Head – Department of Biological Science
Njala University
Tel: +232-78 615158

Desk Officer for Research
Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA)
Tel: +232-76 611 410