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The chimps of the Goualougo Triangle inhabit a much different set of circumstances and possibilities. Their peculiarity was first noticed by Fay himself in 1990, when he and a Congolese colleague, Marcellin Agnagna, made a series of exploratory hikes to survey forest elephant populations for a study sponsored by Fay's employer, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). What seemed peculiar was this: These chimps didn't flee from the sound, smell, or sight of people. On the contrary, they sometimes approached, gawking, confident, and apparently fascinated. They were naive about any potential danger from humans—which suggested that they had never before experienced contact with Homo sapiens. The Goualougo was at that time so remote (unreachable by road, bush plane, or human trail) and so unsullied (there were not even any machete cuts of the sort left by Bangombe Pygmies of the adjacent region) that one could plausibly imagine it had gone unvisited by people for . . . well, maybe for centuries.

The exploratory treks by Fay and Agnagna led to the establishment, in 1993, of Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, of which Fay became the first director. But when the park boundaries were drawn, in a process involving political compromise, the Goualougo Triangle wasn't included. The cone-shaped piece of spectacular chimpanzee habitat and old-growth hardwoods, delineated by the convergence of the Ndoki and the Goualougo Rivers, was left dangling beneath the park's southern boundary like a precious but vulnerable appendage. Instead of receiving park protection, it remained held within a timber concession. Eventually, in that status, it would likely be logged. In the meantime, remembering those eerily brazen chimps, Fay took steps to learn about them—with as little disruption as possible—before it was too late. In time, the assignment fell to Dave Morgan.

Morgan had studied biology at Western Carolina University and then worked several years as a zookeeper at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida. His job there was to feed and tend the captive gorillas and chimps. He had never been to Africa, let alone seen an ape in the wild, until Mike Fay recruited him. In late 1995 Morgan came to Nouabalé-Ndoki as a volunteer assistant on a WCS gorilla-monitoring project within the park. After having proved himself hardy and very capable, he wrote a proposal for a pilot study of the chimpanzees of the Goualougo. Fay, increasingly concerned that the Goualougo might soon be logged, arranged funding for the study and set Morgan to it.

On February 24, 1999, Dave Morgan began work, basing himself at a simple field camp in the Goualougo. The chimps as he found them still seemed blithely innocent of the possibility that humans might represent any threat. They sometimes approached to within a few yards, lingering in trees just above, watching him as curiously as he watched them. He counted heads, observed behavior, sketched their faces in his notebook, and when possible captured them on video. By the end of September, despite a month lost for medical reasons (he'd been attacked and bitten by a distraught gorilla), Morgan had portraits of 93 individual chimps. "The naive behavior" of the Goualougo chimps, he wrote in his pilot-study report, "facilitates the rapid collection of a substantial body of data." And so the study continued.

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