The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016)

Dynamics of human-chimpanzee encounters at Fongoli, Senegal, 2006-2014


1Department of Anthropology, Iowa State University, 2Department of Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University

April 16, 2016 , Atrium Ballroom A/B Add to calendar

In Senegal, human population and artisanal gold mining activities have increased rapidly over the past ten years. With these increases we hypothesized that the coexistence between humans and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) have changed, resulting in increased encounter rates and increased stressful encounters for chimpanzees. In this study we analyzed nine years of daily follow data collected by researchers at the Fongoli field site in southeastern Senegal. We determined the time and location of human-chimpanzee encounters, activity of the people encountered, and chimpanzee reaction to the encounter. Although daily encounter rates decreased from 2006 to 2007 from 1.14 to 0.56 encounters per day, by 2014 human-chimpanzees encounters rates reached a rate of 1.61 encounters per day. Additionally, we saw a shift in human activities in the chimpanzee habitat, with a reduction in Saba senegalensis collection (a fruit consumed by chimpanzees and local people) and an increase in gold mining activity. Contrary to our hypotheses, however, results indicate that chimpanzees may have increased their tolerance to human encounters. In 2013 and 2014 chimpanzee were less likely to flee from encounter sites and more likely to exhibit no reaction during encounters. Although further research is needed, changes in tolerance to human encounters may be due to longevity of the research project and habituation to humans. Additionally, people traveling to access a gold mining site may be less likely to threaten or interact with chimpanzees than local community members attempting accessing the chimpanzees’ resources or hunt other wildlife.