The West African chimpanzee population has declined by nearly 80 percent in recent decades. Habitat loss is threatening their livelihoods across the continent, and especially in Senegal, where corporate mining has started eating up land in recent years. The geographical distribution of West African chimps overlaps almost perfectly with gold and iron ore deposits, and unfortunately for the chimps, mining is a key piece of the country's development strategy. Extractive industries are already improving people's livelihoods and promoting investment and infrastructure development, and researchers are trying to find a way to protect Senegal's chimps without surrendering these benefits. Many of Earth's animal species are now dying off at accelerated rates, but as human's closest living relatives, they tend to tug at our heart strings. Chimps are scientifically important, too –- because they participate in collective activities such as hunting and food-sharing, they're often studied by social science researchers. A new study of animal populations inside and outside a protected area in Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park, shows that protecting such an area from human interaction and development preserves not only chimps but many other mammal species.
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