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After 40 years, four groups of chimpanzees of the Taï Chimpanzee Project have been habituated to human observers and are followed daily. Data collected on the different groups allow us to follow long-term trends in the socioecology of the Taï chimpanzees. Chimpanzees are ecologically ?exible omnivores with broad diets comprising mainly plant and animal foods. Like other ecologically ?exible non-human primates with broad diets, their diets vary across time and habitats. Strong interannual changes have been shown to exist in the food composition of the wild chimpanzee’s diet. Because of this, only data collected over time can reveal their diversified food selection. In this chapter we list all of the plant and animal foods consumed by the two oldest habituated chimpanzee groups in the Taï Forest. We document variation of use between groups and across years. We analyse the consumption variations of some key food species within the two communities, with a focus on plant components of the diet. As for plant foods, the chimpanzees have been seen to feed on 503 food items from 363 plant species. Fruit represents 73.76% of number of food species and 85% when one considers feeding time.
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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