Protecting the Old to Save the New

Imagine you’re a forensic wildlife scientist. As part of a project to find out where the world’s illegal ivory comes from, your days consist of drilling and testing trinkets and carvings made from elephant ivory. One day, you look down through your microscope to inspect a sample you’ve taken from a Cambodian market souvenir…something isn’t right. You realise that what you’re looking at isn’t elephant ivory at all. The carving was made from a woolly mammoth tusk!

This actually happened earlier this year to a team of Edinburgh Zoo-based scientists, and it opens up the debate on how countries should deal with the trade in extinct wildlife parts, particularly if their trade could hasten the extinction of their modern-day cousins. Zara Bending (JGIA Board Director, and Associate at the Centre for Environment Law at Macquarie University) recently published a piece in The Conversation analysing recent efforts to protect the extinct woolly mammoth. Read more:

International Primate Symposium

This month our Africa Programs Coordinator, Natasha Coutts, attended the 27th International Primatological Society Congress in Nairobi, Kenya.

Natasha presented some preliminary results from her ongoing research on the social behaviour and ecology of the chimpanzees in Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda. These chimpanzees live at the highest known altitude for the species, which presents unique challenges compared to the more well-known populations at lower elevations.

However, very little is known about how they’ve adapted to this particular environment, making Natasha’s research an important contribution to understanding the full range of chimpanzee behaviour.

Even more exciting is Natasha’s upcoming visit to Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania next month. Be sure to check out our next newsletter to for an update on what’s been happening in Gombe this year!

Africa Programs Update

We are pleased to share that the construction of a new lab and office buildings at Gombe Stream Research Centre is complete. These facilities will continue to revolutionise JGI’s research and attract more world-class scientists for our collaborative work. To this day, the research team at Gombe continues long-term monitoring of chimpanzees using Dr Jane’s approach featuring all-day observations of the different recognised individuals. There are currently 93 chimpanzees at Gombe in three chimpanzee communities, many of whom are direct descendants of the first chimpanzees that Dr Jane observed nearly 60 years ago. JGIA is proud to have supported this project and we look forward to sharing the exciting new insights into the Gombe chimpanzees and their behaviour that it produces.

Looking further west, our JGIA Africa Programs Coordinator, Natasha Coutts, had a successful, albeit wet, month researching chimpanzees in Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda. The chimps were ranging in large groups of up to 15 individuals, which allowed Natasha to observe a number of different behaviours and even identify some new individuals that she hadn’t seen before. With an estimate of only 400-600 chimpanzees remaining in Rwanda, and little known about the unique adaptations of chimpanzees to high altitude, montane habitats, Natasha’s research on the behaviour, ecology and health of the Nyungwe chimpanzees is vital to help improve local conservation strategies. You can find out more about and support Natasha’s work here.

Finally, we are thrilled to share that two JGI volunteers from Australia will be joining the JGI Spain team in Senegal for the second half of the year! The inspiring Leigh and Shona will be living with local families and making a real difference helping conduct chimpanzee research and raising community awareness on the ground. To find out more and even volunteer yourself, please visit Have an amazing experience Leigh and Shona and we can’t wait to hear all about it!

Wishing Natasha our best for her PhD on Rwandan chimps

We are so proud of our National R&S Coordinator, Natasha Coutts, for her dedication and hard work in pursuing her PhD studies on chimpanzees. Natasha will be leaving for Rwanda in December, where, over 18 months, she will follow two communities of chimps to study their gut biomes and learn about their health. Her work will be important in furthering our understating of not only chimp health, but also the link with our own. Her work was recently featured in articles in the West Australian and the Sunshine Coast Daily and if you would like to support Natasha, you can contribute to her Chuffed drive.
Congratulations Tash and we all wish you the very best for safe travels and a wonderful journey. Just like Jane, you are an inspiration to us all, and we can’t wait to hear your amazing stories and of course see your gorgeous photos. From all of us at the JGIA family, huge chimp hugs and pant-hoots to you!