Which was to tour the STEWARD project activities in the village. For me it was exceptionally useful to understand what had been done so far, and Kortor, probably because it was closest to the best of the remaining forest, had embraced a lot of the activity. We wandered down to a large stand of gallery forest and saw how a tree nursery was being developed – various indigenous species being nurtured from seedlings under the canopy. An area around the village had been demarcated as a community forest – a shared resource managed through the chief for everyone. While the nurseryman explained the progress, a couple of monkeys watched us from their perches high in the canopy.
Next, we trouped into the community forest itself. Mainly down in a small stream valley, the vegetation was thick and dense, but in a mature way rather than a scrubby thicket. The huge buttresses reached up above our heads to support the mammoth tree trunks, the canopy shading out most of the light, but plenty of vegetation thrived in the space below. You could hear from the chatter of bird and frogs that there was a lot of fauna here too. We reached an area which had once been cleared but was still part of the community forest and the destination for many of the nursery saplings. Amongst the natural trees, fruit crops were encouraged and banana and plantain were evident in great numbers. Out in this more open space we could look back at the huge gallery trees and sense their scale and spread. It was pointed out to us that you could see denser patches of leaves in the canopy, which were nests pulled together by chimpanzees – barely a kilometre from the centre of the village. To an outsider this was a draw dropping moment, to come so close to one of the world’s most iconic species, a vanguard for conservation but to the villagers they were a bit of a pest. It is bad enough having dumb insects and rats coming in to your fields and house to steal your food, but to have as intelligent a creature as a Chimpanzee causing you problems was intolerable. Another conservation conundrum.