Guinea is home to about half of the world’s critically endangered western chimpanzees.A bauxite mining boom is driving the chimpanzees from their habitats in Guinea’s Boké region. To compensate, two mining firms agreed in 2017 to fund the establishment of Moyen-Bafing National Park, home to an estimated 5,300 chimpanzees.The national park is itself threatened by a bauxite mine and a proposed hydroelectric dam — projects that could kill as many as 2,800 of the great apes. BOKÉ, Guinea — As he looks out on a landscape devastated by bauxite mining, Lamarana Camara remembers when chimpanzees would wander freely through the thick forests that once surrounded his village in western Guinea. “There used to be a lot of chimpanzees and other wild animals here,” Camara says. “They used to feed in the forest. There are just a few left, most have fled.” The chimpanzees have disappeared in tandem with the declining living conditions for villagers in Kintao Kawil. “The water is not drinkable,” Camara says, pointing at a small stream. “We had easy access to water, but since they started production the streams are all full of mud and gravel.” The population of western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in the region has declined precipitously in the last three decades, with current numbers estimated at around 53,000 compared to around 175,000 in 1990. Roughly half of these critically endangered apes live in Guinea, representing their last stronghold in West Africa. Today, however, their remaining sanctuaries are in deep peril. Environmentalists are warning that the twin threats of mining and the construction of a hydroelectric dam could push the chimpanzees to extinction in a country where they have long thrived, right inside a park designed to protect them. “We’ve lost our lions in West Africa. The chimpanzee population has plummeted in the last 20 years. My fear that even if we don’t do more in terms of conservation in West Africa, we’re going to lose them completely,” says Abdul Tejan-Cole, senior campaign director at the environmental advocacy group Mighty Earth. Chimpanzee offsets Over the last three years, mining companies have raced to expand their operations in Guinea to cash in on a boom in bauxite, the raw material required to make aluminum. These activities alone are likely to kill hundreds of chimpanzees. To “offset” their environmental impact, two of the largest mining firms operating in Guinea — Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG) and Guinea Alumina Corporation (GAC) — have agreed to help protect chimpanzee habitat elsewhere in the country. In mid-2017, the firms committed to funding the creation of the 6,426-square-kilometer (2,481-square-mile) Moyen-Bafing National Park, 300 kilometers (186 miles) northeast of Boké, in the Fouta Djallon highlands. Under a plan backed by the World Bank, the park will be operated by Guinea’s parks agency and the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF). In announcing the establishment of the park, conservationists declared its chimpanzee population, estimated at up to 5,300 individuals, would be “safe”. But the presence of a bauxite mine and a planned 294-megawatt hydroelectric dam inside the protected area could potentially kill 2,800 of those great apes, by the WCF’s own admission. Primatologists in Guinea have remained largely silent on the Koukoutamba dam for fear of angering President Alpha Condé, several sources told Mongabay. The WCF required the president’s backing to create Moyen-Bafing National Park, and will therefore not openly criticize the dam despite its expected impact. “[The WCF] do not want to speak against the dam or the mining companies because they believe that what they’re doing is good,” says one source working on Guinean chimpanzee conservation, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing their job. “If they can create this national park and save these chimpanzees, it’s a wonderful thing. And so they don’t want to speak out against the government,” the source added. The WCF declined to comment for this article.