Saiba Keita 1969-2016


Last  year, we lost an incredible person – Saiba Keita, Chief of Kharakhena, friend of chimpanzees, and my right hand in Senegal.

Over the 6 years that I knew and worked with Saiba, he never ceased to amaze me. His desire to learn and grow was constant. His dedication to our project, his community and the chimpanzees was unfaltering. Even when his quiet village of 150 people grew almost overnight to include over 20,000 gold miners; when bandits roamed the bush; when he became the Chief of this massive and dangerous mining town – Saiba continued his work in the bush, checking camera traps, counting nests, and keeping an eye on the local chimpanzees.

Saiba, you were my guide, my teacher, my protector, and my brother. I would not be where I am today without you. Your presence will forever be missed, but your legacy will live on through your children and your community.


******* L’année dernier, nous avons perdu une personne incroyable – Saiba KEITA, chef du village de Kharakhena, un ami des chimpanzés, et ma main droite en Senegal.

Dans les 6 ans que je connaissais et travaillé avec Saiba, il n’a jamais cessé de me impressionner. Son désir d’apprendre et de progresser était constante. Son dévouement à notre projet, sa communauté et les chimpanzés était sans défaillance. Même quand son petit village de 150 personnes a augmenté rapidement à plus de 20 000 orpailleurs; lorsque des bandits circulaient la brousse; quand il est devenu le chef de cette ville massive et dangereuse – Saiba a continué son travail dans la brousse, en vérifiant cameratraps, en comptant les nids, et l’étude des chimpanzés.

Saiba, vous étiez mon guide, mon professeur, mon protecteur et mon frère. Je ne serais pas où je suis aujourd’hui sans vous. Votre présence sera toujours manqué, mais votre héritage vivra grâce à vos enfants et votre communauté.



Feature in the Daily Mining Gazette

Last week I gave a talk to the Social Sciences department at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan on my work in southeastern Senegal.  I’ve been teaching at Michigan Tech for the past year as I work to finish up my dissertation from Iowa State University.  It was great to finally have a chance to present to my colleagues the research that I am working on.  What was even better is that the talk was picked up by the local newspaper, the Daily Mining Gazette, and featured on their front page!

You can read the article here.

The reporter did a great job – capturing so much of the detail of the talk! A big thanks to Garrett Neese of the Mining Gazette and to everyone that came to the talk last week!




Falémé Chimp Education!

I put together a short film from the past few years of environmental education programs that we did in southeastern Senegal.

Many thanks to Susie McGuire of Conservation Fusion, and Peter Riger and Martha Parker of the Houston Zoo’s Conservation Department!  Huge thanks to Dondo “Johnny” Kante, Saiba Keita, Simiti Damfakha, and the teachers of the four villages for making all these activities happen!!

These education days in the villages of Bofeto, Babouya, Dalafing and Kharakhena were so much fun! …and the kids like them too!  🙂

For more pictures and info, head over to our Ka Wulo Mara page or our Facebook Page.


Kharakhena Chimpanzees Update

Despite the unbelievable changes happening in the village of Kharakhena over the past year , we are happy to report that the chimpanzees living nearby are still going about their usual business!  Saiba Keita, chief of the village and Falémé Chimp Project manager, continues to monitor the camera traps located at the nearby cave.  The photos taken there show that the chimpanzee group is still hanging around the cave – resting, eating, socializing, kids playing, moms napping!

Chimpanzees in Senegal use caves during the dry season when temperatures are at their highest.  The caves provide a cool escape from the heat and a nice place to relax, presumably making thermoregulation easier. Dr. Jill Pruetz of Iowa State University saw this with the Fongoli chimpanzees in southeastern Senegal in the mid 2000s, and the Falémé Chimpanzee Conservation project found that the Kharakhena chimpanzees were using their cave in 2010.

The group’s home range are located a few kilometers away from the village itself and the impacts of the artisanal mining craze hasn’t completely displaced the chimps.  The cave is one of the closest points of the home range to the village but the chimpanzees continue to visit it during the dry season.  Whether their visits to the cave are as frequent as previous years, is still to be determined.

Here is a clip of some chimp mom’s and their kids hanging out at the cave.  The kids are still interested in inspecting the cameras even after 3 years!  I think noticed more poking fingers this year though!

Add a new species to the list!

In the 4 years of camera trapping that we have done here in Senegal in the Falémé region, we captured images of 25 different species of mammals – make that 26 species now!

Our first images of red river hogs (Potamochoerus porcus) were taken this year by the Kharakhena cave.  Two individuals passed the cameras, looking rather alarmed when they some the apparatus!

Although red river hogs are not an endangered species or even considered threatened, they are rare here in Senegal.  Saiba Keita of Kharakhena says he hasn’t seen one in years, and if it weren’t for the cameras we would never see them.  Southern Senegal is the northern most range for the red river hogs, and a rather different climate than much of the rest of their range which extents into Central Africa.

Always exciting to see new faces visiting our camera traps! Here is a short clip of one of the red river hogs checking out the cameras.

Falémé Chimpanzee Conservation

Welcome to the Falémé Chimpanzee Conservation website.  Our organization is working toward conserving chimpanzees and their habitat is southeastern Senegal.  Please take a moment and check out our other pages illustrating our research and conservation education work!