Oldest member of famed tool-wielding chimpanzee tribe dies alone in Guinea aged 71, leaving his two children among just seven members of the dying community
- Fana, born in 1951, has died alone in Bossou, in southeastern Guinea
- His tribe uses stone hammers and anvils to crack open nuts.
- Numbers are declining and there are fears that the community will die out.
The oldest member of a chimpanzee tribe famous for its remarkable tool use has died alone at the age of 71.
Fana, a female chimpanzee born in 1951, died in the forest near the town of Bossou in southeastern Guinea, where scientists have walked for decades to study the remarkable animal community.
His death reduces the number of Bossou’s chimpanzees to only six or seven, half of which are female and two are no longer able to reproduce.
Fana (pictured right in 2011), the oldest member of a chimpanzee tribe famous for their remarkable tool use, has died alone at the age of 71.
The small ape community uses stone hammers and anvils to crack open nuts, the most sophisticated act ever observed from humanity’s closest genetic relative.
Fana had been showing signs of exhaustion in recent months, the Environment Ministry said on Facebook on Tuesday.
His left upper limb has been paralyzed since he suffered a severe fall nearly 25 years ago and he has long since stopped climbing trees.
She lived alone as 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 apes have a unique relationship with the town’s population.
The great apes live in the wild but share the territory and its resources with the locals, who protect them, believing them to be reincarnated ancestors.
A number of chimpanzees have been shown to use tools, including this one at a sanctuary in Kenya, but their prevalence among the Bossou tribe in Guinea makes them particularly interesting.
Until 2003, the Bossou chimpanzee group had remained relatively stable at around 21 animals. But he lost seven members to the flu that year.
It has also been affected by human activities in the area.
Locals traditionally use slash-and-burn agriculture, and although they have preserved a 320-hectare block of forest around Bossou, surrounding deforestation has isolated it from the rest of the Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, where there are communities of chimpanzees. more numerous.
Slash-and-burn agriculture sees people farm land until it is depleted, then cut down forests to create new land, repeating the cycle.
The reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, straddles Guinea’s borders with Liberia and the Ivory Coast.
Fana leaves behind two sons, Foaf and Fanwa. She predeceases her daughter, Fotayou.
The small community of apes, famous for their remarkable use of tools, lives in a forest around the village of Bossou, in the extreme southeast of Guinea.
The latest girl was born in 2020 after researchers spotted the last fertile female of the group, Fanle, holding a tiny baby in her womb.
Aly Gaspard Soumah, director of the Bossou Environmental Research Institute, said they were able to confirm the sex of the baby as female.
Female chimpanzees are capable of having young every four to five years, which means that Fanle “by herself will not be able to reproduce the social dynamics of the group” in terms of numbers and genetic diversity, Soumah said.
But there are other means available to support the people of Bossou, including the creation of a “migration corridor” to allow two-way traffic between isolated communities and their cousins in the hills.
Another possibility is to introduce young females into the tribe, an idea that has its critics, “who argue that this is a group that lives in the wild, that should deal with its own natural destiny,” Soumah said.