Primate Keeper Esta Wilson-Burke is heading to Senegal for a month to work with the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) to save endangered wild chimpanzees with support from the Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund.

Esta will be joining JGI’s research team in the Kedougou region, led by primatologist Liliana Pacheco, to collect behavioural and ecological data to help discover the different challenges and opportunities facing the endangered apes.

Esta Wilson Burke with Dr Jane Goodall DBE

Esta will work across three different sites during her month-long trip.  While based in Nandoumary, she will help identify how Chimpanzees use the forest and whether they use ecological corridors to come into contact with Chimpanzee communities in Guinea. She will also work in Segou and Dindifelo, taking part in direct observations of Chimpanzee behaviours to help inform research and development of eco-tourism initiatives.

According to Esta, “Working alongside wild Chimpanzees has always been a dream of mine and I am really excited to work with the incredible JGI team in Senegal.  I’ve been inspired by Dr Jane Goodall DBE, who I was lucky enough to meet in 2014 when she visited Wellington Zoo. JGI is carrying out crucial research work to ensure the survival of the remaining Chimpanzee population in the region and towards great ape conservation as a whole. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity from the Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund to get involved in helping save Chimpanzees in the wild.

I love working with our amazing Chimpanzee community at Wellington Zoo, which is the second largest group in Australasia. They are social, complex and fascinating to care for. They are also one of our visitors’ favourite animals. I can’t wait to get back to Wellington and share what I learn about the Chimps in Senegal with our great Zoo community,” says Esta.

Did you know? Chimpanzees are disappearing in Senegal due to the loss and degradation of their habitat from human activities, like deforestation.  The latest census showed only about 200 – 500 Western Chimpanzees are left in Senegal, and their range throughout West Africa has decreased severely over the last few decades.

The Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund supports the Zoo’s goal of saving animals in the wild – with funds going towards more than 10 conservation projects regionally and internationally.

JGI New Zealand was formed in 2014 following Dr Jane Goodall’s visit, and will be launching its programmes and operations this year. JGI NZ will be welcoming Jane Goodall back to New Zealand in November this year.