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Why Dig Wells?

Shortly after the last rain, chimpanzees migrate to refuge areas for daily access to water; there they remain until the next rainy season. As the dry season progresses, many natural sources dry up and access to water becomes problematic for both humans and wildlife. Although chimpanzees have been reported to search for water closer to villages, it is more often the case that villagers move into the territory of chimpanzees. Although not directly aggressive towards humans, the mere presence of an adult chimpanzee at a water source can be an intimidating and frightening experience for women and children whose chore it is to collect water. From the chimpanzee perspective, the scarcity of water forces them to be more visible and thus vulnerable.

Generally not hunted for either food or trade, chimpanzees have enjoyed a comfortable and non-threatening form of cohabitation with humans in Senegal. They display innovative and ingenious adaptations to obstacles presented by their harsh climatic conditions. However, the combined impact of reduced rainfall, an increasingly impoverished environment and the fact that 85% of the total chimpanzee population lives outside of protective boundaries could tip the scale against this harmonious balance. If this unique style of cohabitation is to continue, competition between humans and chimpanzees must be alleviated in order to strengthen existing positive attitudes critical to the long-term survival of chimpanzees.

Providing villages with a well in exchange for an agreement allowing chimpanzees and other wildlife sole access to the natural source of water was successfully implemented in northern Guinea. The village of Ethiolo served as the first case study.