Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bandafassi Area Chimpanzee Conservation Project in Senegal

Dr. Maja Gaspersic reports on her research as part of the Bandafassi Area Chimpanzee Project, which stemmed from the Fongoli Savanna Chimpanzee Project as part of a comparative database of chimpanzees living in southeastern Senegal. The project is also part of Neighbor Ape organization's objective to conserve chimpanzees in Senegal as well as providing for the welfare of people living alongside them.

The Bandafassi area project covers a wide geographical area in Senegal (>500 km²) including at least 5 chimpanzee communities in rare forest patches. Due to intense habitat degradation savanna apes are more endangered than ever. However, preliminary estimates from surveys undertaken by Souleye Ndiaye (Director of Senegal's National Parks Service) in May 2011 are encouraging and indicate the Senegalese population may number up to 500 chimpanzees. Additionally, 2 of our main study areas (Angafou & Nathia) were recognized as priority sites for chimpanzee conservation at one of the USAID/Wula Nafaa meetings on chimpanzee conservation in Senegal based on Director Ndiaye's report.

We established a surveillance system based on Janis Carter’s chimpanzee conservation projects in Guinea and further east in Senegal. Identified forest-guardians or eco- rangers monitor the ranging behavior of chimpanzees and at the same time prevent crop-raiding and attacks on domestic animals. Conflict between people and chimpanzees over the latter's predation on goats and mango fruits was partly resolved. These activities depend on continuous funding so that local residents can help protect their natural resources, and more scientific support for research projects would be beneficial as well. We continue to monitor sites at the periphery zones to better understand the relation between humans and apes in a seasonally disturbed habitat. The study area is at the border with Guinea and should be included in collaboration between neighbor countries.

The foundations for the sustainable community-based chimpanzee conservation in Bandafassi area have been laid, but funding is being sought for the long-term support of the project. Besides ecotourism as a conservation incentive I would suggest sustainable harvesting of wild resources (particularly Saba and baobab) and include the products in international fair-trade, organize workshops on bio-horticulture (eco-gardening, seed-bank) and use of traditional medicinal plants. Chimpanzees at Bandafassi live in small isolated communities along increased population of humans, who are vital for their protection. Along with the involvement of local authorities, there is a need collaboration with international agencies to ensure the project's success.

Photo of people of the village of Nathia.

Neighbor Ape donates school supplies to Djendji village

Fongoli Savanna Chimpanzee Project researcher and Iowa State University Ph.D student Stacy Lindshield sent this report about our organization Neighbor Ape's conservation & education efforts:

On Tuesday, October 30th, Fongoli Savanna Chimpanzee Project manager Dondo "Johnny" Kante, Fongoli village chief & retired head field assistant Mboule Camara, research assistant Ulises Villa-Lobos and Stacy went to Djendji village to donate a year's worth of school supplies to Djendji students.

Photo by Stacy Lindshield of Mboule Camara with donated book supplies and Djendji chief & schoolchildren. October 2012, Djendji, Senegal.

They presented two boxes of school supplies courtesy of our Neighbor Ape nonprofit organization to the chief of the village, and sat with him and few other gentlemen at his place to discuss the project. The chief was grateful for this gift. He thanked us, said that the project is very good for the community, and hopes that the project continues to be successful for many more years to come. He and the other gentlemen then said a prayer for us and the project. Afterwards, he said that he prays for us and for the project so that we will continue to work here.

The chief asked how many new babies were born in the Fongoli group over the past year. He thinks that there are more chimpanzees here now than there were before, because prior to the project, people would come here from time to time to kill a chimpanzee for medicine. Now, with the project seeking to conserve this group, future generations will know about chimpanzees and continue to live alongside them. He said that, overall, the chimpanzees are very good, but that they steal honey too often from people. He didn’t seem upset about the honey issue, but perhaps mentioned this as a way to say that living alongside chimps is sometimes difficult.