Human Ecology

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 455-465

First online:

The Impact of West African Trade on the Distribution of Chimpanzee and Elephant Populations (Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, 19th–20th Century)

  • Vincent LeblanAffiliated withCentre for African Area Studies, Kyoto UniversityUMR 208 «Patrimoines Locaux» («Local Heritages»), Institut de Recherche pour le Développement Email author 

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This article elaborates a relational historical geography of human, chimpanzee and elephant populations, working mainly from precolonial and early colonial (nineteenth and twentieth century) narratives by travellers to regions now corresponding to parts of Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal. It then compares a global ‘West African trade’ model of human and animal population’s spatial distribution with elements of an ‘East African settlement colony’ model drawn from other historical research. This perspective balances mainstream evolutionary approaches to animal biogeography with the human history, ecology and the geopolitics of their habitats. Taking such historical processes into account helps to unravel contrastive spatial and temporal dynamics of large mammal populations and to raise new questions about the anthropogenic causes of present-day population distributions.


Historical ecology Human/animal interactions West Africa Colonial trade Chimpanzee Elephant