Friday, February 18, 2022

Nickel has infant # 5!

 Fongoli female Nickel had her fifth infant in January 2022 - the first baby of the new year! Nickel is one of the few females that remained within her natal group. Nickel's mother was Nene, an older female that disappeared a few years ago. Nickel's younger sister, Nellie, did transfer out of the Fongoli group and is thought to have at least passed through the neighboring Bantankilin chimpanzee community to the west of Fongoli. 

Nickel's previous infants include female, Teva, males Vincent and AJ and daughter Aviv. Nickel has the shortest inter birth intervals of any female at Fongoli, sometimes as little as 2.5 years between successive births. 

Congrats Nickel (& us too!) - pant hoots! 

(image is of Vincent when he was an infant) 

Friday, May 15, 2020

It's been a long time since we've updated you on the Fongoli chimps, but everyone is still doing well! You can now get the DVD of the BBC's Dynasties documentary series that features the chimps in one episode. Here is a link to a nice overview of that episode via photos:

Live Science Fongoli Chimp Photo Story

In other news, we have had a couple of new infants, from Eva (girl, Ella) and Lucille (boy, Zeb), and the group remains stable in light of the ongoing gold mining in Senegal.

The Fongoli research team is minimizing contact with the chimps during the Covid-19 pandemic by doubling our conservative follow distance (distance between us and the chimps) from 10 meters to 20 meters. They are continuing to follow the group members to keep tabs on their health and locations.

Our associated Neighbor Ape organization is funding a mask-making project via a local tailor in Kedougou, Senegal. So far, we have been able to fund the sewing of 300 masks, and these will be distributed in the villages of Fongoli, Petit Oubadji, Djendji, Tenkoto, Ngary, and Ngary-Seekoto.

Finally, one of the oldest adult male chimpanzees at Fongoli - Bilbo - has not been seen in several months. We hope that he returns. Bilbo is pictured in the photo above, carrying several baobab fruit during the dry season at Fongoli. One of our Neighbor Ape fundraising projects currently features this photo of Bilbo. Follow this link to the Fongoli Chimps Store at teespring to see more:

Fongoli Chimps Store on Teespring

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Fongoli Chimps To Be Featured On the BBC's Dynasties Series! 

Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, this series follows different animals as they struggle with their own dynasty...

Dynasties airs, with Chimpanzees being the first episode, on November 11 in the U.K. 

Here are some links to the video trailers!

Former alpha male David is the star of the Chimpanzee episode, which features the Fongoli chimpanzees. 

The series will air in January in the USA... (photo of David courtesy of the BBC)

See if you can ID some of the Fongoli chimps in the film!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

We've published various manuscripts about the Fongoli chimpanzees over the last year, but one by former Iowa State student and current Ph.D. candidate at Max Planck Institute, Erin Wessling, garnered the interest of the New York Times!  You can read the story here:

Fongoli chimps in the NY Times

In other news, Fongoli chimpanzee Lily had a daughter in May, and she is doing well. Her name is Annie, and you can see how cute she is in these photos by Iowa State University graduate student, Nicole Wackerly:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Farewell to Mboule Camara

This summer we lost someone that, if I can quote a former student and friend of mine (Dr. Michael Waller) was “one of the great characters of my life”. Mboule Camara died in late June 2017. He was born in Maragoundi, Senegal in the 1940s. I met Mboule in the year 2000, when I first traveled to Senegal to conduct a survey of chimpanzees in this savanna habitat. I was introduced to him by Peter Stirling, also a key part of the Fongoli Savanna Chimpanzee Project. Without Peter I would not have met Mboule and without Mboule, I don't think the Fongoli Project would have ever materialized. We rolled on up to Fongoli and asked a bunch of men under a Saba tree if anyone would take us out “en brousse” (to the bush) to find chimpanzee nests. Mboule said he would. He was my first field assistant and my guide to the wonderful world of Fongoli.

Since Mboule passed away, I have thought a lot about what I might write, when it was not as painful to write about this unique man. There is too much to write, in fact. And, many of the stories that I love about Mboule and I know that others love might make him seem too much of a funny or comical figure to those who didn’t know all aspects of the man. So, maybe I won’t write about some of those moments, no matter how endearing they are to me. Maybe I will ask those who knew him to have a private conversation on one of the many messaging platforms we have these days, where we can reminisce about the funny stories we have to tell about our times with Mboule. Because there was so much more to him than that.

One thing that I do want to write about though is something I heard at his funeral. Or, more specifically, at the sacrifice (we’d say memorial in the U.S., I think, or feast or maybe even wake) held in his honor three days after he passed. (I actually missed Mboule’s funeral, as I was out following chimpanzees and didn’t get my messages until the end of the day when I reached a high spot where my cell phone got a signal. He had died early in the morning and was buried before noon. Missing his funeral is one of my great regrets in life.)

I understood virtually nothing that was said at the sacrifice, as most of it was in Malinke, Mboule’s first language. My project manager, Dondo Kante – and Mboule’s longtime friend – translated some of what was said to me. He mentioned the only woman who had gotten up to say something about Mboule. Everything else was said by men. She was crying as she spoke, which brought tears to your eyes, regardless of the fact that you couldn’t understand her. Dondo told me that she related the story of how Mboule helped her with finances while she searched for a place to live, and she talked about what a big heart he had. Many of the things people said were along these same lines. Most people I know from the United States would think that Mboule was a very poor man; yet he helped others and he always put his family first. He was about as genuine as they come.

Mboule was my first field assistant and guide at Fongoli. He revealed a lot to me about the chimpanzees and he learned a lot too. He laughed when I told him chimps ate termites, and I saw him years later schooling students on how chimps ate termites. He told me that chimps used caves, and many primatologists – and others – found this fascinating. Without Mboule, it would have taken me years to discover this. He took me all over the Fongoli range that first year, to the point that I didn’t want to look for another chimpanzee nest. I’d written data on hundreds of nests on one of those days, only to follow Mboule a little more and have him stop and point up to yet more nests. He knew that “bush” like the back of his hand. He had a GPS built into his brain. He could beeline it straight home from anywhere in the 100km area we found the Fongoli chimps using – and he could do it at night. He’d run after me when we were chased by angry bees, hitting them out of my hair so that only he was stung. He helped me bury our dog, Nyegi, something I’ll bet he never imagined doing in his life – and I doubt many of his friends and family would have believed it either. He introduced me to the cultures there, and he was responsible for making it possible for me to work in Fongoli.

Mboule retired some years ago – at least from guiding students and following chimpanzees. (Although he danced so much at our 10th year anniversary of the project that I wondered why the man was retired!) But, we’d always talk about the chimps when I got home from following them. I’d pass by his compound on the way to ours, and he would always ask me if they were in a large group and where they had nested. Then we’d discuss whether that was near or far, what they were eating and if they had caught any monkeys or bushbabies. He’d continue to ask about some chimps that were no longer in the group, but I never had the heart to tell him they’d disappeared. He helped out with orphan chimpanzee Toto and was always eager to learn news of him, even after he went to sanctuary in Guinea. I think that’s one of the things I’ll miss most about Mboule. Those conversations that weren’t even in very much depth because of our language barriers. Still, they meant so much to me, as did Mboule. I will miss him greatly. 

(With thanks for photos to Erin Wessling, Maja Gaspersic, Clayton Clement, & Stephanie Bogart)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fongoli chimpanzees featured in New Scientist video clip

New Scientist editor Rowan Hooper recently talked about Fongoli chimpanzees' hunting behavior, and part of the story is featured in this video clip:

An invited presentation at the Chimpanzees in Context symposium by Dr. Stacy Lindshield in August of this year provided an update on the spear-assisted hunting behavior practiced by Fongoli chimpanzees.

Another invited presentation (courtesy Dr. Fiona Stewart and Dr. Niki Tagg's symposium on apes' nocturnal behavior) at the International Primatological Conference, which was in conjunction with the American Society of Primatologists conference this year in Chicago, following the Chimps in Context symposium also previewed research on the Fongoli chimps' nocturnal behavior.

Look for upcoming publications in the near future on this as well as other topics at Fongoli including lethal aggression and the chimps' reactions to snakes and other reptiles!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

It's been a long time since we last posted here, and a lot has happened at Fongoli. The community is doing well and is up to 33 individuals. There are a number of new infants, and we expect Natasha to give birth soon. She is currently traveling alone with her brother (Diouf, shown in the photo above, taken by Fongoli Project Manager Dondo Kante) and her older infant, Pistache (who received his name via a Leakey Foundation donor/auction, and we think Louis Leakey would probably like this chimp a lot!).

In other news, we published an update (We're actually over 350 cases now!) on the tool-assisted or "spear" hunting behavior exhibited by the Fongoli chimps last year in the journal, Royal Society Open Science. We confirmed our earlier findings that females hunt in this manner significantly more than males, although there is no sex difference in hunting success.

The article is free and here is the link:

Orphan Toto is still under our care (Janis Carter and the Foundation for West African Chimpanzees and Friends of Animals and our own Neighbor Ape organization). We are hoping to place him soon with other chimpanzees and in anticipation of this, we have started a fundraiser to help build facilities for the sanctuary he will (hopefully!) be going to.

This link provides some information about this:

The BBC is currently filming at Fongoli, and another BBC documentary is in the works based on filming conducted a couple of years ago, so you will be able to see the chimps again in a couple of new documentaries. Look for some really interesting behaviors - of course! Stay tuned for updates, and I'll try to be better about keeping up with this blog!