An­i­mal news

IN the rain­forests of Bos­sou chim­panzees are sa­cred.

People (South Africa) - - Contents - COM­PILED BY GABRIELLE OZYNSKI

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.

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