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!