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One day, two poachers were in the forest and entered the research area of the Taï Chimpanzee Project. They knew that many more monkeys and duikers could be found here than in other parts of the park. After a long walk they heard chimpanzee calls. The chimpanzee group moved toward them without any reaction to their presence. The younger poacher, who was there to carry meat, told the older one with the gun to shoot. But the older one came from a village that had been visited by the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation awareness team. “Wait! People in the village say that the chimpanzees are like humans,” he answered. “Let's first have a look.” It was the Coula nut season and after seeing how the chimpanzees were using hammers to break the nuts open and how some mothers were sharing the nuts they opened with their infants, the older said “They are right in the village. Chimpanzees are like humans. Let's move on.” The poachers continued on their way without shooting at the chimpanzees.
This anecdote was told to us during one of the discussions we had in the village. It illustrates nicely how bringing information about the true abilities of chimpanzees to local populations can contribute directly to saving the lives of this highly endangered species. Scientists can play an important role in conservation and should get involved in sharing their knowledge with local people.
Protection of wild animal populations is an increasing worry for the future of our planet.
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