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Chimps in Sierra Leone adapt to human-impacted habitats

Chimps in Sierra Leone adapt to human-impacted habitats

A new study of western chimpanzees in southwestern Sierra Leone finds they are adapting to survive in severely degraded habitat. But researchers say this doesn’t obviate the need to minimize the impacts of development such as roads and promote less-damaging approaches to farming by local people.

Sierra Leone’s government says it is stepping up efforts to protect the chimpanzee. In March, it declared the western chimpanzee the country’s national symbol and promised to open two new sanctuaries for them.

Despite the gradual loss of most of their original habitat, the chimpanzees in Moyamba district have survived thanks to a particular set of conditions, according Tatyana Humle, a senior lecturer in conservation and primate behavior at the University of Kent, U.K., and one of the authors of the study… The relatively small human settlements in the area and local tolerance for the chimps’ presence are also key factors. “[People] do not persecute or kill the chimps out of fear or because they forage on their crops — which chimpanzees do in this study area, probably because wild food resources are limited,” Humle said.

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