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Success Story: Ethiolo

Ethiolo, a Bassari village located in the district of Salemata, serves as a particularly important site because water competition between chimpanzees and humans in this village is extreme. As the largest and most visible of all Bassari villages, a zone known to support several groups of chimpanzees, resolution of this issue would not only improve living conditions for both species but also serve as a positive example for other villages experiencing similar problems.

map of Senegal districts, Salemata highlighted
Map of Senegal districts, Salemata region highlighted

The water source identified as a site of competition is located to the southwest of the center of Ethiolo, on the slope of a hill which leads to the sacred mountain of Patée. The land belongs to the chief of the village - Thianthian Bindia. When the water table is at its lowest ebb, the spring provides limited water and takes nearly a day to refill. Limited amounts of water can only be collected in the early hours of the morning and must, of necessity, be rationed among 80 members of the extended Bindia family. But they are not the only beings relying on this source for water.

A small group of chimpanzees, estimated at 10-12 individuals, live in the vicinity of the Bindia family. Towards the end of the dry season, they also rely on the same source as the Bindia family. In earlier times the mountain of Patée represented only one of many water stops along their annual migratory route. Once the rainy season set in, the chimpanzees would break into smaller groups and migrate across the chain of mountains to various areas including Nangar, Sedou and a large perennial source of Nepnep near Goumo.

More than ten years ago, the forest corridor between Sedou and Ethiolo was cleared, eliminating this as a migration route for chimpanzees. Farms and gardens have been cultivated within a meter of the source of Nepnep, thus excluding this area as a source of drinking water for chimpanzees. With few alternatives left, the mountain of Patée has become their permanent dry season refuge. Their continued existence depends on the goodwill and generosity of the Bindia family.

The suggestion to provide a well to the village in exchange for giving priority rights of access to the source to chimpanzees and other wildlife was well received. In May 2005, Friends of Animals constructed a well, led by project leader Janice Carter, within the perimeter of the village. The Bindia family now enjoys easy and unhindered access to water. The close proximity of the well to the home greatly reduces the input of time and energy to this necessary and daily task of water collection. Chimpanzees are also observed and heard on a regular basis at the source. Additional measures to reduce tension between the two species includes a signed letter of agreement and a schedule of hours governing the harvest of mangos (requiring the presence of humans) so as not to disturb chimpanzees from accessing water.

completed well in the Ethiolo village
Ethiolo villagers inspect the newly built well. To the right are Janis Carter, project director, and Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals.

In December 2005, we established a program to assess and monitor the migration route of Ethiolo chimpanzees as well as monitoring the frequency of chimpanzee presence at the newly protected source. A monitoring transect was established along the migration route and tracked with a GPS. Two local residents were trained to collect information on the presence of the Ethiolo chimpanzees and their nests by using a pictorial data sheet. Monitoring of chimpanzees will continue for a minimum of 12 months to ascertain if other obstacles exist for safe passage of these chimpanzees along their annual migratory route. Monitoring of the frequency of chimpanzee use of the protected source is scheduled for the four months prior to the rainy season, beginning in February 2006.

During the dry season of 2006, the depth of the Ethiolo well will be increased to ensure access to water at the very end of the dry season. Enrichment planting along the barren slope near the source has been discussed as an important measure to protect the source. This activity is scheduled for the rainy season of 2006.