Every dry season, wildfires arrive in waves around the CCC. They are often lit by poachers who use them to drive game out of the forest and into the open.
The CCC is located in the heart of Haut-Niger National Park, which is one of the last protected environments in West Africa that is made up of both savannah and dry forest. During the dry season (December – April), all of the vegetation is very dry and the days are very hot, especially with The Harmattan, a dry and dusty wind that descends from the Sahara into West Africa. These conditions make it very easy for fires to spread rapidly.
Every year in December and January, we implement controlled burns around the sanctuary and each chimpanzee enclosure in order to create protective firewalls. If a fire does reach the CCC, these wide strips of pre-burned vegetation give the team time to fight the fires. There are two methods for fighting these fires : hitting the burning vegetation with branches, or lighitng another fire from a road. When the two fires meet, they naturally extinguish.
This period is always very stressful because our team has to be constantly on the alert for signs of an approaching wildfire, which we often identify by the sound of crackling flames in the distance. The most dangerous situation is when a fire occurs during the day, at the height of the heat. The heat generated by the fire is extreme and can be very dangerous.
Last week, a large wildfire approached the CCC from the southwest, but the team managed to successfully stop it and create a firewall around the camp. A small piece of forest in the southwest has been preserved from the flames, and all of the chimpanzees and team members are doing well!