Competition between chimpanzees and humans over fruit of Saba senegalensis in southeastern Senegal

Waller, Michel
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Western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) compete directly with humans for a variety of wild growing plants in the Tomboronkoto region of southeastern Senegal. Due to political, economic, and demographic factors, the number of people collecting the fruit of the Saba senegalensis vine, an important food for chimpanzees and humans at a time of limited food diversity, is increa ing at a rate that may not be sustainable (Knutsen 2003). For humans, the fruit represents a much needed source of income at a time when crop stores are depleted and new crops have yet to produce. Often collected by women, the income derived from the Saba senegalensis harvest is used to buy clothing, food, and medicines (Knutsen 2003).

As important a Saba senegalensis is to humans, it may be vital to chimpanzees. During the months of May, June and July, seeds of the Saba senegalensis were found in 87%, 89% and 95% of all fecal samples collected respectively, between 2001 and 2004 within the Tomboronkoto region (Pruetz 2005). No other food source was found in more than 50% of fecal ample in a month over that same time period, highlighting the importance of the fruit to chimpanzee diet (Pruetz in press). A Saba senegalensis is removed from the area, decreasing the number of seed available for germination, human and chimpanzee may be forced to face a future without this vital fruit.