Across West Africa, chimpanzees are on a clear path towards extinction, unless effective and drastic action is taken immediately. International teams of scientists have identified farming and poaching as ‘very high’ threats to chimpanzees in these areas. The funds raised through completing this challenge will support a project that will address both of these issues.
I have set the target of cycling the length of the South West (Bristol to the Lizard Point, Cornwall) in 24 hours. This will equate to some 200 miles with over 3000m of elevation gain along the way. Having not completed an endurance challenge before this is sure to be extremely testing. However, the chance to gain support for this vital conservation project far outweighs the costs to my legs! The route will be completed at the end of October with full updates provided.
I am currently a PhD student at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, and the New University of Lisbon. I have a history of working within primate conservation, which you can find out more about at primatehowell.wordpress.com.
The Supported Project
Gola Rainforest National Park (GRNP) is located in South east Sierra Leone, West Africa. Almost 70% of the chimpanzees in Sierra Leone are thought to occur outside of national parks. This makes GRNP a vital area of habitat for the conservation of this ‘Critically Endangered’ species. GRNP is one of the largest areas of forest remaining in Sierra Leone, one of the 35 worldwide biodiversity hotspots, and one of two high priority areas for primate conservation in the world. Unfortunately, hunting is common at GRNP and chimpanzees are expected to suffer in this region as a result. Also, the effects of growing cocoa at GRNP are a major conservation concern. Whilst growing this crop is vital for human development in the area, the presence of this crop is resulting in more animals feeding on it and becoming targeted by humans due to crop losses.
How Will Your Support Benefit Chimpanzee Conservation?
This project will obtain chimpanzee population estimates, measure and understand the nature of human threats and environmental differences impacting chimpanzees living here. Such information will be crucial to best preserve this critically endangered species.
The project will begin in 2022. It is vital that funds are secured as early as possible, allowing plans to be made, which will result in the most effective work schedule and maximise conservation impact. The money raised for this project will enable it to address the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Western chimpanzee regional action plan through the following specific actions:
- Improve knowledge of how humans and chimpanzees are currently living and sharing the same areas, and the effectiveness of known strategies to help this by holding interviews with communities.
- Completing surveys to improve our understanding of where western chimpanzees and their threats are in the area.
- Contribute to the creating regional chimpanzee population and habitat goals by conducting scientific analysis which identifies areas for habitat conservation.
- Provide training for local professionals to ensure that local staff and officials are skilled in research methods for chimpanzee conservation.
- Make recommendations, in partnership with the national park and local communities, for evidence-based strategies to reduce human pressures on chimpanzees that take account of human needs, as well as conservation priorities. These will be practical programmes, informed by the project’s results, to introduce effective chimpanzee protection based on threats and human perceptions across the GRNP landscape.
After the completion of this project, local, national and international stakeholders will have greatly needed information to: reduce the impact of identified human activities, enhance chimpanzee & human coexistence; prioritise areas for chimpanzee conservation in land use planning; identify areas for ranger patrols, identify management strategies to support chimpanzee communities in GRNP's different environments; identify management strategies which promote chimpanzee conservation.
How you can help to make this happen?
This crowdfunder allows you to either make a direct donation, or to pledge on a unique reward. These include images of secretive wildlife species caught on camera traps, exotic rainforest sound recordings that can take you to the home of the chimpanzee, or a photograph print of a chimpanzee taken by myself. Example images are below.
This work, and every contribution towards it, will allow us to help improve the chances of future generations having the opportunity to marvel at the natural world in the same way we have been able to since we were children. We have the natural world to thank for so much in our lives. Each donation will be received with the utmost gratuity and will stamp your part on improving the chances for continued chimpanzee survival in West Africa.