Neighbor Ape

Our organization strives to conserve the habitat of wild chimpanzees in southeastern Senegal, to protect the chimpanzees themselves, and to provide for the wellbeing of the Senegalese people who have traditionally lived in the area alongside these chimpanzees. Our goal is to promote sustainable conservation practices that take into account the needs of local humans, in part by providing assistance to the people of the various local villages in the region.
Sep 9, 2014

Dormitory is complete!

Girls
Girls' & boys' residences at the dormitory

All of us at Neighbor Ape are thrilled to announce that the dormitory for village children, built in conjunction with the Senegalese organization OBARAR, is now open to students! 

Students were able to move into the dorm late last spring, and they finished their school year there. Most of these children are Beudick, from the village of Thiobo and other nearby villages.

Several Bassari children from Djendji-Bassari (also called Petit Oubadji) also live in the OBARAR dormitory and receive funding for their room and board via Neighbor Ape.

While the dorm is functional, several buildings are in the process of being finished, including a visitor's room and an extra chaperone room so that the dorm houses both a male and female house parent.

This project stems largely from the very generous donation of Drs. Jewel Slesnick and Harold Marder, but numerous smaller contributions to Neighbor Ape made such a feat possible!

Continued funding of schoolchildren that live within the Fongoli chimpanzees' home range means that good relations are maintained in our efforts to conserve these endangered great apes in addition to the equally important goal of enabling rural children to receive the best possible education. 

We plan on having a grand opening in October for the upcoming school year, and we are now going to be raising funds to complete the dispensary on site at the dormitory.

Thank you again for all your support!

Showers & toilets (very important!) at the dorm
Showers & toilets (very important!) at the dorm
Rooms for the dormitory chaperones (& the well)
Rooms for the dormitory chaperones (& the well)
Visitors
Visitors' rooms & kitchen are almost done
Aug 28, 2014

Toto will be moving on soon!

Toto and old friend Tigre
Toto and old friend Tigre

Toto has just turned two! And, he has been in our care (specifically, under the care of Janis Carter of the Baboon Islands Chimpanzee Sanctuary in The Gambia) for almost two years. While captive apes are generally a year ahead of their wild counterparts in skeletal & physiological development, Toto seems to have gone above and beyond! He is almost as large as juvenile Fongoli chimpanzee Cy, who will be turning five this year!

While Toto's excellent health and large size will help him in some ways to adapt to a social (chimpanzee!) environment, he is technically still an infant. We are currently working with Senegalese authorities to determine Toto's next home, and this will be decided - hopefully - by the end of the year.

In preparation for Toto's next home, we have been taking him out "en brousse" (out in the field) almost daily when possible. He is quite the expert at tree climbing although he does often walk bipedally, most certainly because he is imitating his human caretakers! He has outgrown being able to associate with his feline companions - he is just too rough - and we are looking forward to being able to introduce him to other chimpanzees.

We plan on caring for Toto indefinitely if necessary - for example, if his permanent home will be in a sanctuary that either already exists or one that will be built. To that end, we will be introducing various fundraising campaigns, such as calendar sales (see photo of handsome Fongoli chimp Bo on a sample calendar page!). We also hope to use Toto's story to raise awareness about chimpanzees in Senegal, where most of the country's apes live outside of officially protected areas.

Given the increase in mining activity in this country, chimpanzees will inevitably come into contact with humans more frequently, and educating Senegalese and others on the complexity, intelligence and remarkably humanlike aspects of chimpanzee behavior will help prevent persecution of this species in an increasingly populous area. We think that Toto's story will resonate with people, and the opportunity to share his story via workshops and other ways is only made possible by the kindness of generous donors such as yourselves!

Toto has no problems climbing these days!
Toto has no problems climbing these days!
Sample calendar page for Toto fundraiser!
Sample calendar page for Toto fundraiser!
May 6, 2014

Toto is growing!

Big Toto! (courtesy Stacy Lindshield)
Big Toto! (courtesy Stacy Lindshield)

Good news on Toto's progress - he is still growing rapidly! He weighs almost 40 pounds now and is not yet two years old! He has been going out "en brousse" (into the wild) about twice a week to learn more about the environment into which he was born and to familiarize him with chimpanzee wild foods. He will be two years old in August, and this is the time around which we've scheduled our decision as to Toto's future.

After two years of age, it is possible for a young chimpanzee to live on foods other than milk. This means that, theoretically, Toto could go back to the group that he was born into - the Fongoli community of chimpanzees, the study group habituated to the presence of observers beginning in the year 2001 and continuing until today.

However, Toto would still need to be carried, protected and given food in some cases where it is too difficult for a young chimp to get access to a certain food. The hard-husked shells of the Baobab fruit, for example prevent young chimpanzees from accessing the fruit pulp, but this is a very important food source for chimps in Senegal. Even though Toto's older sister Aimee had been weaned when their mother Tia died, she was not yet big enough to reliably and efficiently process baobab fruits, and other chimps in the group shared theirs with her, especially the older adult males. Even though Toto is very big for his age (3 or 4 times larger than a wild chimp of the same age!), he would not be strong enough to access some foods, and he would need to learn many, many techniques when it comes to foraging for food on his own.

Another obstacle to releasing Toto into the wild concerns the influx of many more people into southeastern Senegal as part of the current "gold rush". Toto has much less fear of humans than even the best-habituated Fongoli study group chimpanzees, and this could be problematic for him. People coming to Senegal to look for gold do not necessarily have the same taboos against hunting and eating apes that the Senegalese have. Finally, in considering Toto's fate, we must consider most prominently the fate of the chimpanzee social group that he would be introduced to. We have consistently kept Toto as isolated as possible from humans other than a few caretakers. It is crucial to ensure that Toto would not introduce any diseases or illnesses to a wild chimpanzeee group that he contracted from living in close proximity to humans, as chimpanzees can acquire many of the same illnesses as humans, but they do not have the same immunity to them as we do.

With these obstacles in mind, especially the influx of people into Senegal as part of the gold rush, we have also come up with different options for Toto. These could include keeping him in a semi-captive situation such as you find with chimpanzee, gorilla and bonobo sanctuaries in various places in Africa. He will definitely be introduced to other chimpanzees, as this is perhaps the most important part of a chimpanzee's life (being social) after their basic needs have been met. We hope to be able to reveal our plan for Toto by the end of this year and start working to make it a reality. Currently, he is still living in Kedougou, under the care of Janis Carter and with his two "fathers", Ousmane and Pelel.

Without a doubt, Toto is a very confident as well as a strong and precocious young chimp - he did not go through the trauma that other ape orphans usually go through when they are brought into a captive situation. Toto was simply retrieved by humans he knew after his mother died and no other chimpanzees found him. We are all very intrigued to see how Toto's confidence translates into a social situation with other chimpanzees! Stay tuned for future updates!

Toto interested in the camera!
Toto interested in the camera!
Toto learns about water
Toto learns about water
 
   

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