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!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Congratulations Dondo "Johnny" Kante on being Educator of the Month!

Dondo Kante serves as the Conservation Steward for the Fongoli Savanna Chimpanzee Project, as well as the Project Manager for the FSCP. He has worked for the FSCP since 2001, and he also helped initiate the OBRAR project, an organization based in Senegal that works to provide opportunities for the minority Beudick group. You can read more about Dondo's amazing work to help people as well as chimpanzees on the Primate Education Network's website. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Boyer of the Faleme Chimpanzee Conservation project in Senegal, with whom Dondo collaborates).

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.