The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


2015 Winner



For seven years Christophe Boesch spent time habituating Chimpanzees in the Taï National Park in the Ivory Coast. As the Chimpanzees acclimatised to Christophe, eventually treating him as if he wasn’t there, his observations revealed the most extraordinary discoveries Chimpanzees are however, now critically endangered across the world due to deforestation and hunting.

Guinea has been known for some time to host the largest chimpanzee populations in West Africa (Kormos and Boesch 2003). Nationwide surveys from 2009 to 2012 by the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF) have confirmed this situation. At the same time research has revealed that in many places, including all protected areas, deforestation is rapid and the chimpanzee populations are decreasing. More specifically, the WCF discovered the Foutah Djallon-Bafing area to be inhabited by a surprisingly large population of chimpanzees, presumably the largest of all of West Africa, in a habitat without much legal protective status.

From 2013 to 2014, with a more accurate survey of this area, along the Bafing River, the WCF estimated the population to be approximately 4,700 Western chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes verus (see reports). An outstanding result obtained by comparable bio monitoring designs, with trained local field teams using technically demanding methods of data acquisition and analysis. Simultaneously, a one-year socioeconomic survey was conducted in the region to acquire updated knowledge on the local population and their agricultural practices and needs.

The WCF initiates a mixed chimpanzee/landscape conservation project in the 8,000km² large Foutah Djallon-Bafing area including seven classified forests crossed by the Bafing river, source of the Senegal River; this multi-dimensional project entails direct conservation management to environment restoration, environmental education, development of sustainable agricultural practices and capacity building.

All these activities must be developed for such a project to be successful. Fighting against deforestation in this important centre of biodiversity will equally ensure the future for animals and humans. The key element, for the survival of the whole biodiversity of this region, including the human population, is access to water, which will require the re-establishment and reforestation of the water sources and gallery forests.

The aim of the project is to implement an important forest corridor along the river between two hotspots of chimpanzee population in an area of 160 km². This location will then be used to sensitize the local population to the benefit of such activities and provide guidance for sustainable basic agriculture.

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