December 4, 2022

The UNESCO-listed Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve stretches across Guinea’s border with Liberia and the Ivory Coast.

Guinea’s oldest chimpanzee and one of the last members of a globally known endangered community has died in solitude around the age of 71, the environment ministry said.

Fana, a female chimpanzee born circa 1951, was part of a troop that gained worldwide fame for their uncanny tool-wielding skills.

The small community of monkeys lives in a forest around the village of Bossou, in the far southeast of the country.

Scientists have been flocking to the remote site for decades to study the chimpanzees’ remarkable use of stone hammers and anvils to crack open nuts — the most sophisticated act ever witnessed by humanity’s genetically closest relative.

But Fana’s death brings the number of Bossou chimpanzees down to just six or seven.

Half are females, although two can no longer reproduce.

Fana has shown signs of exhaustion in recent months, the environment ministry said on Facebook on Tuesday.

Her left thigh has been paralyzed since she suffered a severe fall nearly 25 years ago and has not climbed trees for a long time.

She lived alone because she became less mobile.

Her body was found on September 19 and she was buried the next day in the presence of local villagers.

The Bossou monkeys have a unique relationship with the village population.

The great apes live in the wild, but share territory and resources with the local population, who protect them, assuming they are reincarnated ancestors.

Until 2003, the Bossou chimpanzee group was relatively stable with about 21 animals. But it lost seven members to the flu that year.

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It has also been affected by human activities in the area.

The locals traditionally use slash-and-burn farming, and although they had preserved a 320-acre forest around Bossou, the deforestation of the area has cut it off from the rest of the Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, which is home to more chimpanzee communities.

Slash-and-burn agriculture causes people to cultivate land until they become exhausted, then clear forests to create new lands and repeat the cycle.

The UNESCO-listed reserve stretches across Guinea’s border with Liberia and the Ivory Coast.

Fana leaves behind two sons, Foaf and Fanwa. She was predeceased by her daughter, Fotayou.

Baby chimpanzee gives hope to Guinea’s famous monkey tribe

© 2022 AFP

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