Thieving chimps alter farming practices

Trinity College students have discovered thieving chimpanzees are changing the way farmers make a living in Africa by causing them to grow different crops and spend more time guarding their goods.

Crop raiding by light- fingered and industrious chimps, means hundreds of thousands of marginalised farmers are losing edible crops to damage each year. As a result, farmers are reducing their cultivation of maize, beans, and other staples — which are highly prized by raiding species.

In addition, by guarding their crops during the night, farmers are increasingly exposed to malaria carried by mosquitoes and soil-based worms which cause elephantiasis.

The research by Trinity College Dublin’s School of Geography ultimately found that communities near the edge of tropical forests are experiencing a lack of “dietary diversity” and an increased exposure to disease-carrying insects as a result of the actions of chimpanzees stealing their crops.

Despite the positive actions taken by farmers working around the Gishwati Forest fragment in western Rwanda, the shifts in farming practice are having a cumulative, negative effect on their communities.

The damage might be minor on each occasion, but the losses soon add up, and an increased risk of disease is a huge problem.

Shane McGuinness, lead author on the research and a PhD student in Geography at Trinity, said the chimps were imposing a form “natural tax on farmers growing crops near the nutrient-rich soils of the forest”.

Work is now being finalised on a larger project around the Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda.

Mr McGuinness is assessing the impacts of mountain gorilla, buffalo, and golden monkey on the conservation of this park and the development of surrounding human communities.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Email Updates

Receive our lunchtime briefing straight to your inbox

More in this Section

Hospitals dumping €1m of milk formula: study

Teenage sweethearts among five killed on roads in past three days

Undocumented Irish in US make video to highlight plight

Barry Cowen rejects EU warning on water


Breaking Stories

Court hears garda interviews in case of men accused of nailing man's foot to kitchen floor

Irish Wildlife Trust highlight 15 'illegal' wild fires over the weekend, eight in conservation areas

Murder accused was banging on widow's door the day she was killed, court told

Gardaí appeal for witnesses to hit-and-run and shooting incident in Dublin

Lifestyle

Meet the US firefighter running the Cork City Marathon with his severely ill daughter

'You’re doing phenomenally well with brilliant men; why wouldn’t you want brilliant women too?'

Damien Enright: The fascinating Armoured Ground Crickets are perfect look-alikes for horror-film aliens

Jess Kavanagh is putting some real bite in her Barq

More From The Irish Examiner