Monday, October 27, 2014

Fongoli chimpanzee 2015 calendars available! New report about Neighbor Ape projects in Senegal, Fongoli chimps on BBC & Eva's first infant!

Our first round of sales of the 2015 Fongoli chimpanzee calendars went so well, we are going to put in a second order! These calendars feature the adult males of the Fongoli group this year, as well as rescued orphan Toto. Each calendar is $15 (which includes shipping & handling to anywhere in the world), and your purchase of a calendar also means we will buy a second one to be given away in Senegal as part of our education efforts. If you are interested in a calendar (or two!), you can mail a check or money order to Neighbor Ape, 1216 Burnett Ave., Ames, IA 50010, USA. Funds from the sale of the calendars will be used in one or more of our Neighbor Ape projects, which focus on conservation, healthcare and education in southeastern Senegal.

You can also check out our Neighbor Ape page on Facebook, where you can make calendar purchases via the Facebook "Shop Neighbor Ape" app. Feel free to use the message option there to ask any questions.
We've also just posted a project update on the Global Giving website that talks about our latest healthcare project in southeastern Senegal.

More exciting news is that the Fongoli chimpanzees (especially adolescent male Dawson, shown lounging in a tree in the photo below!) will be featured in one episode of the David Attenborough narrated Life Story on BBC. This series airs in the U.S. in early 2015, but if you live in the U.K., you can catch the Fongoli chimps first in episode three (November 6) and then the Dawson feature in episode four on November 13. Check out the trailer to Life Story which features a few Fongoli chimps, including infant male Louie (Lily's first infant!) right at the beginning.

FINALLY, Fongoli chimpanzee Eva (seen in photo below, in baobab tree with fruit) was seen with her first infant on October 24! Eva transferred into the Fongoli chimpanzee group in 2012, most likely from the unhabituated Bantan group to the west and north of Fongoli. It is not yet known as to whether it is a boy or a girl, but you can find updates here soon!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fongoli part of larger study of chimpanzee aggression

Research stemming from our 13-year study of the Fongoli chimpanzees is part of a data base to examine factors influencing lethal aggression in chimpanzees and bonobos. Thirty authors representing 22 different chimpanzee and bonobo study groups contributed to this first major attempt to statistically analyze the variables that influence killing in these apes. Chimps are one of the few animals besides humans that kill outright members of their own species. Among primatologists, two major camps have had opposing views: One explanation is that these lethal events are abnormal for chimps and represent the effect of human influence, either through habitat destruction or provisioning such that abnormal levels of competition produce such killing. The other major explanation views lethal aggression as a natural part of chimpanzee nature, such that it is an evolutionary adaptation that contributes to the reproductive success of some individuals (the aggressors).

Our paper found evidence to support the adaptive explanation but not the human influence explanation. Moreover, chimpanzees from East Africa (a different subspecies) were significantly different regarding the rates of these lethal events compared to chimps living in West Africa and compared to bonobos. Fongoli chimpanzees are of the West African subspecies, and lethal aggression is rare among these apes. This analyses goes far in providing evidence to support the hypothesis that lethal aggression is a natural part of a chimpanzee's life, at least in East Africa. However, we would ideally like to support the hypothesis with data showing that individuals that killed others exhibited significantly higher reproductive success. Additionally, our measures of human disturbance look at current conditions for the chimpanzees and bonobos studied. Humans and these apes have been co-existing for millennia, and it is difficult to say how their current populations have been shaped in the past - especially the recent past - by the behavior of humans.

Here are a few links that provide more info on the study:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fongoli chimps 2015 calendar available!

We've got 2015 Fongoli chimpanzee calendars available for purchase! $15 each & for every one ordered, we will purchase one to be handed out in Senegal. Checks can be made out to Neighbor Ape & sent to 1216 Burnett, Ames, IA 50010. Or, email

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Update on Fongoli chimps

It's been awhile since I've shared news of the Fongoli chimps, so here is an update! The group is doing well and even though there were no births in 2013, we are expecting at least one in 2014 if not more (Come on Tumbo! Eva?!). David remains the alpha male, and he may have mellowed a little. He is still close with the second ranked male, his brother Mamadou. A number of the younger males have risen up the hierarchy. Jumkin, for example, was mid-ranking in August and had moved near the top of the 12-male hierarchy by December. Mike has been up and down the hierarchy. He comes in pretty assertively and then is relegated to the fringes of the social group after several males join forces to put him in his place.

It's been over a year since our team rescued infant Toto after the death of his mother, Tia, who sustained a poisonous snake bite. Toto has been under the care of Janis Carter of the Baboon Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in The Gambia (see image above of Toto and one of his full-time caregivers, Ousmane). He goes out for trips "en brousse" (in other words, out in the wild) with our team, and he is four times the size of chimps of the same age in the wild. He will have to continue his milk diet (at least partial) until he is two years of age, which is the minimum a chimp could survive in the wild after being orphaned. Chimp infants at Fongoli are normally nursed by their mothers for around four years, although they begin eating other foods much earlier. We have a number of options lined up for Toto as far as his future goes.

Toto was 2 months old when his mother Tia died, and his older sister Aimee was about four (photo above of infant Aimee with her mother Tia - photo by Kelly Boyer). Aimee had been taken by poachers when she was only 9 months old, and although she survived for another four years following this traumatic event, I'm sad to say she disappeared last year. She stayed with the group for approximately 6 months after the death of her mother, and she had been weaned at least 2 months before that, when Toto was born. However, I believe the chimp-napping incident with the poachers did effect her ability to survive without the companionship and support of her mother for very long. Additionally, mother chimps still share some foods with their older offspring, and although Aimee did receive foods like hard-to-process baobab fruit from other group members, it appears she was not able to survive the trauma she experienced early and then later in her young life. Still, Aimee was with her group for another 4 years following her capture by poachers, and young apes rarely live for more than 3 years after such an experience. You can watch video of Aimee's miraculous return to her group by following the link to the National Geographic documentary here. Aimee's story is featured in the first several minutes of this documentary, and you can see some video of her acceptance back by the Fongoli chimps.

The Fongoli group is also adjusting to increased gold mining activity within their home range but in part because of the respect chimpanzees are shown by the people living alongside them, these apes are currently able to deal with such disruption. They will be featured in several documentaries this year, including ones produced by the BBC, National Geographic and Arte TV (France/Germany).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Another T-shirt campaign for Toto

Orphan chimpanzee Toto is doing well in Senegal. He has surpassed the year mark, though he is actually the size of a 3 or 4-year old wild chimp! He will need to be cared for for another year even if he is returned to a wild or free-ranging situation in which he does not have access to a nursing female.

Get your "Ape for Toto" T-shirt and help support the little guy's care!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The dry season is pretty brutal this year at Fongoli, with March temperatures being hotter than any month during the past 2 years! It is usually even hotter in April & May, so we will have to see what is in store for Fongoli chimps (and researchers) over the next couple of months, before the rains start.

Young adult male Luthor has officially been added to the roster of adult male subjects, as he is now integrated into the dominance hierarchy. Luthor is already larger than many of the adult males and has yet to "fill out", so his climb up the social ladder will be interesting.

Orphan Aimee has not been seen for a month, along with former alpha male Lupin, whom she was traveling with. We think they are spending time at the Djendji water source, probably along with Lucille and her daughters Sounkaro (about Aimee's age) and Luna, since these are the only individuals that haven't been seen lately with the rest of the 33-member community.

Aimee's younger brother Toto, whom researchers rescued after the death of his mother when no other chimpanzees found him, is doing well. He has been under the care of researchers with the Fongoli Savanna Chimpanzee Project initially (Stacy Lindshield, Ulises Villa-Lobos, and Michel Sadiakho) and then with Janis Carter and her team from the West African Chimpanzee Foundation more recently. We are working towards coming up with the best solution of for Toto's future. Our options include returning him to his natal group, introducing him to a sanctuary in Africa or working towards the establishment of a new sanctuary for Toto and other captive chimpanzees in Senegal. We initiated a new project on our Global Giving website for this cause:

We have also initiated a T-shirt campaign to raise money for Toto's care:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fongoli chimps' 2012 year in review!

A lot of things happened at Fongoli in 2012, but here are some highlights. New female transfer Eva arrived about the middle of the year, and other arrivals included Nickel's new baby boy Vincent, early in 2012, and Tia's son later on in the year. Lily (transferred in over a year ago to Fongoli!) also had a male infant late in 2012. Vincent, Toto and Louis, respectively, are doing fine although with the tragic loss of Tia to snakebite late in the year, Toto is no longer with his group. Toto was only 2 months old when his mother died, and he would not have lived without being nursed by a lactating female. The chance that a female that already had an infant would also adopt Toto was so slim that we chose to rescue him and are currently involved in his care. We have several options in mind for Toto and are hopeful that all will go well for him.

(Photo of Toto courtesy Stacy Lindshield)

Toto's sister Aimee was weaned when her mother died, but she was only five and a half and would have still stuck close to Tia for several years. She seems to have been adopted by the former alpha male Lupin. Older males Bandit and Siberut also look out for Aimee, waiting for her when she lags during long-distance travel. These males as well as others allow Aimee to take food from them sometimes, as she would have done from her mother. Aimee was taken from Tia in 2009 but confiscated by our team and returned to her within 5 days. She was able to spend 3 more years with her mom until Tia met her unfortunate fate.
(Photo of new alpha male David)

In other news, young male David supplanted alpha male Lupin early in 2012. David was able to do so because he had support from his brother, second-ranking male Mamadou. Exiled former alpha male Foudouko was seen quite a few times following David's rise and Lupin's fall. He is no longer habituated to human observers, after being peripheralized for several years, so the dynamics of what is going on with Foudouko and the rest of the community remain to be teased out over time. The chimps racked up over 35 more tool-assisted hunting cases, and we have a total of well over 200 cases overall and hope to examine individual differences in tool-assisted hunting behavior in new analyses.

In Neighbor Ape (our non-profit organization) news, we have made great progress on the OBRAR dormitory project and were once again able to fund schoolchildren of different ages in Kedougou and Tambacounda, as well as a nursing student in Dakar. We donated a year's worth of school supplies to the village of Djendji again, and we are embarking on a new collaborative healthcare project with the Senegalese OBRAR organization. Neighbor Ape also earned a permanent spot on the Global Giving website after a successful fund-raising campaign! Thank you again to all of you who have given us support!

All in all, even though there were definitely some sad events, 2012 was a pretty good year for the Fongoli chimps and for Neighbor Ape too. Let's hope 2013 is prosperous as well!