The Chimpanzees of West Africa: From “Man-Like Beast” to “Our Endangered Cousin”

Part of the Primatology Monographs book series


This chapter summarizes how the perceptions and needs of people in developed countries influence the way chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in West Africa are treated. The chimpanzees have been exhibited in zoos and used for entertainment and experimental research in developed countries. The majority of wild-born chimpanzees in captivity in the USA, Europe, and Japan originated from West Africa. Sierra Leone was once a major exporter of live chimpanzees and served as an outlet for exports from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia to Europe, the USA, and Asia. As the number of chimpanzees in the wild decreased and they became an endangered species, the export of chimpanzees was banned, and international organizations and the public became more interested in protecting individual animals and the population in the wild at large. Even so, the live chimpanzee trade continues in West Africa. Along with habitat destruction and hunting chimpanzees for bush meat, trade constitutes a major threat to the wild populations. Sanctuaries were established to care for confiscated and unwanted animals and to help local governments with law enforcement. The debate on the function and future of chimpanzee sanctuaries is another example of how people’s perception of the primates has influenced how they are treated. Studies of chimpanzees in the wild and in captivity have contributed to our understanding of the species and have helped to increase public awareness in developed countries and to generate concern for protecting populations in the wild. Many chimpanzee researchers advocate better protection for the animals in the wild and in captivity.


Wild Population Pasteur Institute Laboratory Animal Research Captive Chimpanzee Young Chimpanzee 



Part of this study was supported by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) core-to-core program HOPE, the Matsushita International Foundation, and JSPS program, “Initiatives for Attractive Education in Graduate Schools: Training of Researchers for Applied Area Studies by on Site Education and Research.” In Sierra Leone. I would like to thank Bala Amarasekaran, the staff at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, K. Bangura, M. Mansaray, the Wildlife Conservation Branch, and the Forestry Division under the National Commission for the Environment (the Government of Sierra Leone), and the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone. I also thank Dr. G. Teleki and Ms. S. McGreal (International Primate Protection League) for their hospitality and sharing valuable information on chimpanzee trade in the past. I am also grateful to Drs. T. Matsuzawa and G. Yamakoshi for their guidance.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Asian and African Area StudiesKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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