Tedros Medhin, project coordinator with Stichting Chimbo, an SOS Grantee and IUCN Member, reports from Boé, Guinea-Bissau, about how Village Vigilance Committees (CVVs) are helping to protect the local population of Endangered West African Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes ssp. verus).
Whereas before local farmers would attempt to shoot a chimp on sight or even sell infants to the pet trade, behaviours are shifting toward strategies that help promote coexistence.
Each CVV comprises five community members who perform several tasks. They monitor the Chimpanzee groups living on their village lands while conducting field visits. They also discourage and denounce the hunting and/or killing of Chimpanzees and poaching in general, while also evaluating the damage caused by Chimpanzees to crops.
Critically, all stakeholder groups are represented in these CVVs: village elders, former hunters, women, volunteer forest guards, and of course young people.
During one recent meeting, Tedros’ colleagues also showed video camera trap films of wart hogs, antelopes and buffaloes that had been recorded in the vicinity. To many, these were rare but enjoyable sights.
The ensuing chatter and excitement indicated the video had struck a chord - with participants renewing their promise to warn the project team and local authorities when they detected poaching in their area.
Better still, the project team’s local partner Daridibó signed a special agreement with local military forces based nearby in Beli, Che-Che and Dandum. Equipped with a bicycle, one soldier at each site can assist the local CVV in its patrolling and anti-poaching activities. In exchange, the project team provides the petrol needed for a subsequent motorised patrol which follows up on any reported illegal activities.
Meanwhile the project team also uses local radio programming to remind villagers about the damage caused to wildlife by snare traps and the fact that it is illegal to hunt with snares. “Snares are dangerous for people too - especially the farmers at work in their fields in the area,” says Tedros.
He concludes: “Sadly, serious incidents do occur from time to time – theft and even poaching. But we continue working closely with the local authorities to uphold and enforce the law. The key is that the community sees the value in all of this. And judging from the response at recent CVV meetings, it seems they do.”