Where are the chimpanzees of Djouroutou?

Gold prospectors on a river in Côte d’Ivoire Hundreds of men are illegally prospecting for gold in rivers near Taї National Park (© anonym)

Mar 24, 2021

For many years, a group of 25 to 30 chimpanzees lived in Taї National Park in Côte d'Ivoire. However, in mid-February, the animals disappeared without a trace. Conservationists fear they may have fallen victim to poachers. The Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF) has launched a search mission to help the authorities stop poaching and illegal gold prospecting.

Taї National Park is the focus of rainforest conservation in Côte d'Ivoire, a country that has for the most part lost its original forest cover. The park provides a habitat for pygmy hippos, leopards, forest elephants and the endangered West African chimpanzees.

Over the course of a few months, hundreds of gold prospectors invaded the region near the protected area, working on rafts in the Hana, Meno and Cavally rivers. The noise of their pumps, which can be heard for miles, has scared off the wildlife in the area.

The influx of gold prospectors has tripled the population of Djouroutou. The demand for bushmeat – i.e. meat from wild animals – has exploded and prices have soared. Poachers stand to make more money than ever before.

According to Dr. Emmanuelle Normand, Country Director of the WCF in Côte d’Ivoire, there could be two explanations for the disappearance of the chimpanzee group: the presence of prospectors and the noise of their machines has driven them away. Or they could have fallen victim to poachers.

The WCF has therefore assembled a four-person search party of eco-guards from Djouroutou. Their mission is to track down the chimpanzees and at the same time deter poaching. The WCF also supports the rangers of the park authorities so that they can act more effectively against the illegal gold prospectors.

“We hope that we can locate the missing chimpanzees soon and that they are all safe and sound,” says Dr. Normand. The group, which is habituated to human visitors, is one of the attractions of an ecotourism project in Djouroutou supported by the WCF.

The WCF is a long-time partner of Rainforest Rescue, and we are accepting donations to support their work here.