Chimpanzee conservation in light of impending iron ore mining project in SE Senegal
Although metal mining is increasing in Africa, little is known about its effects on endangered ape populations. In Senegal, much of the metal mining is located in the southeastern region, where the effects of mining compound existing conservation problems faced by savanna chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus). As mining and, subsequently, human populations increase in Senegal, chimpanzee populations will likely be displaced from areas of suitable habitat. To understand the effects of human disturbances on chimpanzee populations prior to mining, as well as chimpanzee habitat use and behaviors, I collected survey data at two study sites that have been identified by mining company ArcelorMittal as iron ore mining sites. The sites, located in the Falèmè region, were surveyed for chimpanzee nests, behavioral artifacts, habitat types, and areas of human disturbance using reconnaissance and line transect surveys. A total of 184 nests were recorded in and around the 256 km2 Kharakhena (KR) study site and 243 nests at the 64 km2 Bofeto (BO) site. Human disturbances including villages, cultivated areas, mining activities, and tree cutting by herders, were recorded using GIS. Results show that although chimpanzees around KR appear to avoid nesting within areas of human disturbance, at the BO site nesting frequently occurs within disturbed areas. Chimpanzee behavioral data was collected opportunistically through indirect measures during reconnaissance and transect surveys. Indirect data indicate the chimpanzees of KR termite fish using brush-tipped tools and enter caves, behaviors that are relatively rare for this species. Further efforts are needed to understand the balance between shared land occupation of chimpanzees and human around the BO site, as well as reasons for displacement as mining activities and human populations increase.