Fongoli Savanna Chimpanzee Project

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The Fongoli Savanna Chimpanzee Project (hereafter referred to as the FSCP) was first surveyed in 2000 by Dr. Jill Pruetz, and subsequently a research station was established in 2001. The FSCP habitat is described as sudano-guniean mosaic habitat, including gallery forest, open and closed woodlands, grassland savannas, open plateaus, ecotone, and other habitat types. The climate of the FSCP site is relatively extreme (Wessling et al. 2018b), with an average of 945mm rainfall per year (FSCP longterm database) a nine-month dry season, and an average daily maximum temperature of 37deg C (Wessling et al. 2018a). Possibly due to these environmental extremes, the FSCP site is located in the northwestern limit of the western chimpanzee biogeographical range. Interesting insights from FSCP research has illuminated unique behaviors demonstrated by savanna chimpanzees, including cave use, pool use, and tool assisted hunting (see Behaviors section below).

Site characteristics

The FSCP was founded in 2001 by Dr. Jill Pruetz (Texas State University, USA) following initial surveying conducted by Dr. Pruetz and her collaborators (Pruetz et al. 2002). The Fongoli site was selected for the creation of a long-term research site based on it's high density of chimpanzee nests relative to other locations in the Kedougou Region of Senegal. Habituation efforts were underway from 2001-2005, until in 2005 all male individuals of the community were fully habituated and research effort intensified.

The FSCP (12°40'N, 12°13'W) is located within the Tomboronkoto Arrondissement of the Kedougou Region (southeastern Senegal) and is managed by the Departement des Eaux et Forets des Chasses de Senegal. The project area encompasses an area of approximately 100km² (the size of the Fongoli chimpanzee community home range). A number of villages surround the community, including a number of ethnic groups (Bassari, Bedik, Pulaar, and Malinke; Pruetz 2013).

Table 1: Basic site information for the FSCP

Area: 100km2
Designation: Long-term research site (non-protected area)
Habitat types: IUCN category: Moist Savanna

[IUCN habitat categories] [IUCN Protected area categories]

Ape status

Initial surveying of Fongoli suggested the Fongoli area (identified in Pruetz et al. 2002 as Tomboronkoto) to be of highest chimpanzee for the region, with a chimpanzee encounter rate of 285 chimpanzee signs per 5.8 km walked. To date, no formal surveying has been conducted in Senegal to confirm true abundance estimates relative to other sites. However, as of 2018 32 individuals belong to the research community, although it has varied in size from X to X since 2005. Surrounding communities to the northwest have been estimated to be between 9 and 18 individuals, at a similar estimated density as that observed at Fongoli (Micheletti 2018), although no abundance estimates were provided.


Traditionally, resource extraction (e.g., Saba senegalensis fruits, Khaya senegalensis and Pterocarpus erinaceus wood) has been the predominant threat to chimpanzee habitats in Senegal, and these threats have been previously studied at Fongoli (e.g., Clavette X, Mara X). Chimpanzees in the region are not a hunted species but in 2009 a hunter opportunistically captured an infant chimpanzee from the research community after injuring its mother (Pruetz and Kante 2010). The hunter attempted to sell the infant as a pet before it was confiscated and returned to its natal community. Therefore, it appears that chimpanzees at Fongoli and in the region in general are vulnerable to opportunistic hunting.


More recently, artisinal gold minign has increased anthropogenic pressure on Fongoli chimpanzees, as several mining sites have opened within the FSCP territory. Along with increased exposure to toxins (e.g., mercury) in the environment, artisinal mining has also been shown to have an impact on movement patterns of the chimpanzees.

  • Threats present: poaching, agriculture, logging, artisinal and industral

Threats list

Table 2: Threats to great apes in Fongoli

Major Threats Threat level Description
Poaching low, but present chimpanzees are not targeted but have been confiscated opportunistically
Disease low Fongoli chimpanzees appear to have low parasite loads (from Howells et al. X)
Agriculture high the Fongoli community home range is interspersed with agricultural fields, the local population is predominately subsistence agriculturalists
Logging low Certain key species are targeted for logging, but extraction level has been minimal
Mining high artisinal gold mining is a severe and growing threat to all chimpanzees in the Region

Conservation activities

Neighbor Ape was founded by Dr. Pruetz as a means of supporting local communities surrounding the FSCP (link). The charity has undertaken a varied number of approaches towards supporting these communities, including funding individual and village-wide health projects, school fees and supplies, and other education-related endeavors such as founding a housing project to support students from local villages (OBRAR: link). Other conservation activities include....

  • Conservation activities present: e.g. radio campaign, aquaculture project....

Conservation activities list

Table 3: Conservation activities in !!! insert site name !!!

Conservation actions Presence Description
Law Enforcement no non-protected area, although hunting restrictions by the Dept. des Eaux et Forets are in place
Long-term Research yes since 2005
Permanent Monitoring Program no
Education no
Public Awareness Campaign yes intermittent programs through FSCP-associated organization Neighbor Ape
Ecotourism no


Artisinal gold mining is a challenging threat to overcome to chimpanzee conservation at FSCP, as it is viewed by the local population as a significant means of income. Likewise, agricultural production within and surrounding the FSCP is a traditional means of sustaining the local population (commonly subsistence farmers), and therefore is unlikely to be eradicated.

  • Impediments present: e.g. poverty, lack of alternative livelihoods....

Impediments list

Research activities

The FSCP site was first surveyed in 199 as part of larger-scale surveying in the region (Pruetz et al., 2002). Since then, the FSCP community has been under continuous research since 2001, with all males of the community habituated to researcher presence since 2005. Research at Fongoli has been predominately behavioral (see below), although ecological (Bogart and Pruetz 2011), endocrinological (Wessling et al. 2018a,b), and isotopic research (Sponheimer et al. 2006) have also been conducted there. Research activities have also recently extended to neighboring chimpanzee communities (e.g. X).

  • Surveys

Table 4: Great ape population estimates at the FSCP

Species Year Number of Individuals (or present/absent) 95% C.I.s Source Comments
Western chimpanzee 2000 49.1 signs / km (present) NA Pruetz et al. 2002 Recce survey
Western chimpanzee 2018 0.32 / km2 NA Known chimpanzee density; FSCP long-term data Research community

  • Documented (exceptional) behaviours:
    • Tool-assisted hunting (Pruetz and Bertolani 2007, Pruetz et al. 2015)
    • Cave use (Pruetz 2002, Pruetz 2007)
    • Coprophagy (Pruetz and Bertolani 2012)
    • Pool use (Pruetz and Bertolani 2009)

See Behaviour list



  • Clavette et al X
  • Boyer Ontl 2017
  • Pruetz and Kante 2010

  • Bertolani, P., & Pruetz, J. D. (2011). Seed Reingestion in Savannah Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) at Fongoli, Senegal. International Journal of Primatology, 32(5), 1123-1132. doi:10.1007/s10764-011-9528-5
  • Bogart, S. L., & Pruetz, J. D. (2008). Ecological context of savanna chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) termite fishing at Fongoli, Senegal. Am J Primatol, 70(6), 605-612.
  • Bogart, S. L., & Pruetz, J. D. (2011). Insectivory of savanna chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) at Fongoli, Senegal. American journal of physical anthropology, 145(1), 11-20. doi:10.1002/ajpa.21452
  • Howells, M. E., Pruetz, J., & Gillespie, T. R. (2011). Patterns of gastro-intestinal parasites and commensals as an index of population and ecosystem health: the case of sympatric western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) and guinea baboons (Papio hamadryas papio) at Fongoli, Senegal. Am J Primatol, 73(2), 173-179. doi:10.1002/ajp.20884
  • Micheletti, K. (2018) Influence of human disturbance on Western Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) nesting behavior in a savanna mosaic habitat, southeastern Senegal. Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA. Masters Thesis.
  • Pruetz, J. (2001). Note: Use of Caves by Savanna Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in the Tomboronkoto Region of Southeastern Senegal. 8(2).
  • Pruetz, J., & Bertolani, P. (2007). Savanna chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes verus, hunt with tools. Current Biology, 17, 1-6.
  • Pruetz, J., & Bertolani, P. (2009). Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) behavioral responses to stresses associated with living in a savannah-mosaic environment: Implications for hominin adaptations to open habitats. PaleoAnthropology, 2009, 252-262. doi:10.4207/pa.2009.art33
  • Pruetz, J. D. (2007). Evidence of cave use by savanna chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) at Fongoli, Senegal: implications for thermoregulatory behavior. Primates, 48(4), 316-319. doi:10.1007/s10329-007-0038-1
  • Pruetz, J. D. (2013). Studying Apes in a Human Landscape. In K. B. Strier (Ed.), Primate Ethnographies: Pearson Publishers.
  • Pruetz, J. D. (2018). Nocturnal behavior by a diurnal ape, the West African chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus), in a savanna environment at Fongoli, Senegal. American journal of physical anthropology.
  • Pruetz, J. D., Bertolani, P., Boyer Ontl, K., Lindshield, S., Shelley, M., & Wessling, E. (2015). New evidence on the tool-assisted hunting exhibited by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in a savannah habitat at Fongoli, Sénégal. Royal Society Open Science, 2(4), 140507.
  • Pruetz, J. D., Marchant, L. F., Arno, J., & McGrew, W. C. (2002). Survey of savanna chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in Southeastern Senegal. Am J Primatol, 58(1), 35-43. doi:10.1002/ajp.10035
  • Pruetz, J. D., Ontl, K. B., Cleaveland, E., Lindshield, S., Marshack, J., & Wessling, E. G. (2017). Intragroup lethal aggression in West African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus): Inferred killing of a former alpha male at Fongoli, Senegal. International Journal of Primatology, 38(1), 31-57.
  • Pruetz, J. D., Ontl, K. B., Cleaveland, E., Lindshield, S., Marshack, J., & Wessling, E. G. (2017). Intragroup lethal aggression in West African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus): Inferred killing of a former alpha male at Fongoli, Senegal. International Journal of Primatology, 38(1), 31-57.
  • Skinner, M. F., & Pruetz, J. D. (2012). Reconstruction of periodicity of repetitive linear enamel hypoplasia from perikymata counts on imbricational enamel among dry‐adapted chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) from Fongoli, Senegal. American journal of physical anthropology, 149(3), 468-482.
  • Sponheimer, M., Loudon, J. E., Codron, D., Howells, M. E., Pruetz, J. D., Codron, J., . . . Lee-Thorp, J. A. (2006). Do "savanna" chimpanzees consume C4 resources? Journal of Human Evolution, 51(2), 128-133. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2006.02.002
  • Wessling, E. G., Deschner, T., Mundry, R., Pruetz, J. D., Wittig, R. M., & Kuehl, H. S. (2018). Seasonal Variation in Physiology Challenges the Notion of Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) as a Forest-Adapted Species. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 6, 60.* Wessling, E. G., Kühl, H. S., Mundry, R., Deschner, T., & Pruetz, J. D. (2018). The costs of living at the edge: Seasonal stress in wild savanna-dwelling chimpanzees. Journal of Human Evolution.
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