IN the rainforests of Bossou chimpanzees are sacred.
HELD up as a totem by the local people the chimps are considered holy and cannot be hunted – they even steal fruit from plantations and pillage village huts with impunity; but tensions between the growing human population and the primates is natural. Originally there were 20 animals, now sadly only seven remain due to loss of habitat and food sources. Bossou is situated in Guinea, and borders Cote D’Ivoire and Liberia. and the chimps there are not ordinary chimps – they are tight-knit group of exceptional animals with a deep ability to learn and teach new skills over generations. They fold leaves to act as sponges to sop up rain water, use rocks to crack open oil-palm nuts, craft fishing sticks to collect edible termites and discourage intruders by throwing large planks of tree bark. Since 1986 primatologist Tetsuro
Matzuzawa has researched the culture of this group and their tool use.
In an effort to preserve this chimp population the researchers and villagers co-operated to launch the ‘Green Corridor Project’ to connect the fragmented forest of Bossou and
Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, some 4km away.
This required weeding, digging and planting over 38 000 trees grown from seed over the course of 20 years to transform the savannah into a forest. The corridor is monitored using drones to track illegal tree harvesting and by foot to clear poachers’ snares. Ideally, this safe corridor will re-establish a flow of migration between the Bossou chimpanzee community and the neighbouring Nimba populations, helping diversify their genetics and providing the animals more range to avoid conflict with villagers.