Human Ecology

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 455–465 | Cite as

The Impact of West African Trade on the Distribution of Chimpanzee and Elephant Populations (Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, 19th–20th Century)

  • Vincent Leblan


This article elaborates a relational historical geography of human, chimpanzee and elephant populations, working mainly from precolonial and early colonial (nineteenth and twentieth century) narratives by travellers to regions now corresponding to parts of Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal. It then compares a global ‘West African trade’ model of human and animal population’s spatial distribution with elements of an ‘East African settlement colony’ model drawn from other historical research. This perspective balances mainstream evolutionary approaches to animal biogeography with the human history, ecology and the geopolitics of their habitats. Taking such historical processes into account helps to unravel contrastive spatial and temporal dynamics of large mammal populations and to raise new questions about the anthropogenic causes of present-day population distributions.


Historical ecology Human/animal interactions West Africa Colonial trade Chimpanzee Elephant 



The field and library research for this article was initially conducted as part of the ‘Evolution, Natures et Cultures’ interdisciplinary program directed by Frédéric Joulian at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. It was also partly supported by the “Tremplin pour l’Avenir” grant of the Société Francophone de Primatologie (Plélan le Grand, France). The article was written during two postdoctoral tenures that were respectively funded by the Société d’Ethnologie (Nanterre, France), the Fondation des Treilles (Paris), and the Fondation de France (Paris), and the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (Tokyo). Special thanks to Koji Hayashi for checking the final version of this manuscript, to Amanda Leblan for helping me to improve the English, and to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for African Area StudiesKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.UMR 208 «Patrimoines Locaux» («Local Heritages»)Institut de Recherche pour le DéveloppementParisFrance

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