The Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, founded in 2000 by Prof. Christophe Boesch and Hedwige Boesch in response to the rapid decline of wild chimpanzee populations, is a multinational foundation based in Switzerland with offices in Germany, Côte d’Ivoire, France and Guinea. Its mission is to ensure the long-term protection of viable populations of wild chimpanzees and their habitats in tropical Africa. It is based on a threefold philosophy of “conservation-research-education” to achieve its mission and focuses on the Taï-Sapo area, the last large forest block in West Africa. This area, classified as a priority zone for chimpanzee and biodiversity conservation, stretches from Côte d’Ivoire to Liberia. Thus, in the Taï-Sapo Area and in several other priority areas across West Africa, the WCF carries out various activities to ensure the protection of the last chimpanzee populations, our forest cousin. Here is an overview of its activities:
The WCF has since 2004 implemented ecological monitoring programmes where members of local communities, as well as elements of the OIPR (Office Ivoirien des Parcs et Réserves, with which the WCF works in collaboration) are trained to collect data in protected areas, on all signs of wildlife presence as well as on illegal anthropic activities. In this way, the WCF is able to locate and quantify animal populations in order to define priority areas of interest and threats to biodiversity such as poaching. These results have proved useful to government agencies such as OIPR, who can then adapt their monitoring strategies in response to these data, effectively increasing the protection of protected areas. In exploited forests, these results can also support the implementation of a sustainable management system that takes wildlife into account. This is the case for the Classified Forests of Goin-Débé and Cavally, where the WCF has been working in collaboration with SODEFOR, the forest managers, since 2007.
In collaboration with several professional theatre companies in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the WCF has created educational plays aimed at raising awareness of chimpanzee conservation and sustainable management of forest areas among the populations living near protected areas. During the awareness-raising tours, local people living around the different forests are invited to watch the play, take part in open discussions and watch documentary films about chimpanzees. The WCF newspaper “Forest Talk” is also distributed free of charge on these occasions. To date, WCF has visited nearly 400 villages with its campaigns, which have reached an estimated audience of over 200,000 people. With the success of these tours, amateur troupes have also been trained to conduct their own tours. Education activities also include the environmental education lessons of Club PAN (People, Animals, Nature), which takes place in 12 primary schools in Côte d’Ivoire as an extra-curricular activity. At the Banco National Park, in the heart of Abidjan, the WCF has set up an eco-museum, for environmental education for all school children, Abidjanese and international tourists.
To encourage local populations to avoid bushmeat as a source of protein, WCF has set up various micro-projects in the villages bordering the Taï National Park. These projects have mainly included fish farms in 10 villages where the communities are responsible for maintaining and developing them in a sustainable manner. In addition, WCF has also recently initiated a community-based ecotourism project in Taï National Park that aims to enhance the cultural and natural resources of the area by attracting foreign visitors.
Finally, we should mention the social impact of the Foundation’s actions, which since its creation has led to the employment of hundreds of people, sometimes on short missions, sometimes on a long-term basis. A partnership with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany has also enabled several Ivorian students to benefit from advanced supervision for their studies. Numerous training courses are held in the field, whether for ecoguards, biomonitoring officers or teachers.