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Research History and Conservation Status of Chimpanzees at Bossou, Guinea

Gen YAMAKOSHI1), Hiroyuki TAKEMOTO2), Tetsuro MATSUZAWA2) and Yukimaru SUGIYAMA3)
1) Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Japan
2) Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan
3) Tokaigakuen Women's College, Japan

     This review summarizes the findings from 40 years of research on a chimpanzee group at Bossou, Guinea, and reports the current conservation status of the chimpanzee group.
     Research in the 1960's by the Dutch team consisted of short-term, 'testing-a-hypothesis' type projects, which focused on the chimpanzees' agonistic behavior towards predators. They used a unique field-experiment method, with an artificial leopard, to see how the chimpanzees responded to the stimulus.
     In 1976, the Japanese team launched a long-term project. Although diverse topics have been covered to date, a focus has been tool use. Starting with the first substantial direct observation of nut cracking by wild chimpanzees, many other types of tool use have since been described. A series of field experiments followed that revealed many details about nut cracking by chimpanzees: hand preference, metatool, developmental process, etc. Feeding ecology is a more recent topic, and the utilization of oil palm as a 'keystone resource' when fruit is scarce, using two types of tool, proved to have significant ecological importance. Unique social characteristics like male immigration, close between-female relationships, and females' high reproductive performances have been brought to light and require more ecological and genetic study to understand their uniqueness comprehensively.
     As for the conservation status of Bossou chimpanzees, the population size has fluctuated, but has been essentially stable during the study period. The reproductive parameters appear good, but juveniles of both sexes tend to disappear for unknown reasons. The people of Bossou have a strong religious motivation for conserving small patches of forest and the chimpanzees living there, and there is good collaboration among the Bossou people, government institutions and researchers when dealing with conservation problems.  Current concerns seem to be the genetic isolation from a neighboring chimpanzee population on Mt. Nimba, and crop damage caused by the chimpanzees.