Two years ago, Primatologist and Founder of the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF), Christophe Boesch, presented his multi-level chimpanzee conservation project to the St Andrews Prize judging committee, going on to win the prestigious Prize.
Guinea has been known to host the largest chimpanzee population in West Africa, and surveys by WCF in 2009 and 2012 have confirmed this. At the same time these studies have revealed that in many places, including all protected areas in the country, deforestation is rapid and the chimpanzee populations are decreasing.
WCF’s chimpanzee conservation project aims to protect the largest remaining population of critically endangered Western chimpanzees in the proposed Moyen-Bafing National Park in Guinea, an 8,000 km 2 priority zone with about 4,700 weaned chimpanzees.
Winning the St Andrews Prize for the Environment has allowed WCF to move the project forward, and Christophe spoke to us about what winning has meant for the project now, and what it will mean for the organisation in the future.
“Thanks to the flexibility of the St Andrews Prize, we were able to respond directly to the wish of the Guinean government to move rapidly forwards, with concrete steps toward gazetting the proposed Moyen-Bafing National Park.
“The creation of new protected areas contributes to the national goal of Guinea to place 15% of the terrestrial surfaces under protection by 2020. The proposed 8,000 km² Moyen-Bafing National Park contains 7 classified forests crossed by the Bafing River. In this region, the WCF was able to conduct a demographic study and a Focus Group study to better understand the location, ethnicity and size of the human populations that may fall within the proposed Moyen-Bafing National Park. Eleven teams were sent into the field in April/May 2016 to collect the relevant georeferenced demographic data, with the additional objectives of discovering certain aspects of each village’s history and of mapping the roads in the area – mostly consisting of unmapped tracks.
“We will be able to combine this data with socio-economic data to tailor our activities and fully understand how the land in the area is used, as well as the needs of the local people therein to reduce anthropogenic pressures on biodiversity. WCF has also implemented a tree nursery in the area with 79,000 seeds/cuttings of ecologically valuable tree species used for forest regeneration and water source protection. An environmental education program for 486 children in four schools has also been organized.”
It’s clear to see that WCF has been hard at work since winning the Prize, and with even more activities on the horizon, the future looks bright for the organisation.
“The Minister of Environment has officially mandated the WCF to create the Moyen-Bafing National Park, together with the Guinean Office of Parks and Water. WCF managed to implement crucial demographic base-line studies and wildlife monitoring, organized workshops to transmit the conservation messages and legal structures, and undertook capacity building with local communities. In 2016/17, we will enhance all the activities implemented in 2015/16, and start the reforestation of degraded land in the corridors between the protected areas. The search for financial support of this new National Park, involving as many stakeholders as possible, will be the ongoing challenge to be met.”
As well as creating additional exposure for WCF, the Prize has also allowed the project to grow, with WCF setting new goals for the future. So what advice would they give to those thinking of entering in 2017?
“I strongly advise any person having a real motivation in favour of enhanced nature conservation to consider submitting for the St Andrews Prize. Please make sure to have a solid business plan ready for your project, including well-structured financial plans. This should be at the heart of an efficient conservation project.”
To find out more about the chimpanzee conservation project, and WCF, visit www.wildchimps.org