In Senegal, Helping Chimps

Zoo staff member Martha is in Senegal right now working with the Faleme Chimpanzee Conservation Project, and she’s sending us updates as she gets enough internet access to make that possible! Here are a few updates from Martha:

We spent the last few days in very remote villages called Bofeto and Babouya, right in the corner of Senegal where the country meets Mali and Guinea. We checked on various camera traps to see if the cards were full, and we installed a new camera trap next to a big rocky, shaded water source. Chimp nests were nearby as well as lots of fruit so we think this will be a good spot to get photos.

Kelly from Faleme Chimpanzee Conservation Project an a local villager from Babouya put up a camera trap to hopefully get some photos of chimps!

We ate lots of “caba,” as the local people call it. It is a very sour fruit with lots of seeds, and you break it open and eat the pulp off the seeds. It’s popular with chimps, and it’s popular with us too!

“Caba” fruit, scientific name saba senegalensis – yummy and very sour!

Then, we went to the village of Bofeto teaching kids about how and why animals hide using camouflage: both to get away from predators and also to catch their prey. We went on a hike to find plastic animals hidden in the bush and then talked about why some were harder to find than others-the kids really had fun going out behind their school on this scavenger hunt!

Kids in the village of Bofeto learn all about camouflage

We also had some volunteers come up in front of the group and talk about the animal that they were and where it would hide based on its coloration, and how this would help them either find food, or get away from animals who wanted to eat them.

Kids had a great time wearing the silly hats and since they live right alongside (or in) the forest, they already had a lot of knowledge about animals and how they adapt to their environment, and how it is important to protect the habitats of animals because they rely on them for so many things!

Kids in the village show off their silly hats

Later on, we went to the village of Babouya, where the villagers got to watch a film about chimpanzees. This village lives right alongside a troop of chimpanzees and they loved watching the film and seeing the chimps doing things similar to humans (like using tools and getting frustrated when tools don’t work, and the moms carrying their young on their back, etc.).

Villagers in Babouya watch a film about chimpanzees

Amazingly, we needed assistance putting up my bed sheet for the screen and asked one of the village members to help. We weren’t sure if they were going to put it up on one of their huts, but in about 10 minutes we walked over to the center of the village and they had created their own handmade frame out of bamboo-it was amazing! They were so thankful for us playing the video, almost the entire village came-adults, kids, infants, and dogs (and maybe even some goats).

Stay tuned for more updates as we get them!

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