Project (2015-ongoing) Socioecology of a montane population of chimpanzees in Rwanda
Chimpanzees are our closest phylogenetic relatives and constitute an important basis for hypotheses about the origin and evolution of human sociality.
Chimpanzees across tropical Africa show extensive amounts of behavioural diversity that is sometimes attributed to variation in local environmental conditions and sometimes thought to represent distinct cultural traditions.
Chimpanzees have been the subject of long-term studies at several sites in Africa, but studies at additional sites are needed to understand the full range of adaptability in this taxon.
The population at Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda is special in that it lives in a relatively marginal high-altitude environment with unique ecological challenges; however, little systematic research has been conducted on this population.
The overarching goal of this study is to elucidate how this particular population has adapted to an unusual montane environment that differs in resource availability from other chimpanzee study sites.
A long-term study on the behavioral ecology of Mayebe community near Uwinka is to be launched which will initially focus on their feeding ecology, grouping patterns, space use and hunting behaviour.
Long-term research projects of this nature are essential for increasing our understanding of the ecological processes that affect behaviour, life history patterns and population dynamics in this taxon, which occur over many years or even decades.
When attempting to conserve species which are under high threat, understanding these parameters is vital for conservation planning.
Beth Kaplin, Antioch University
Jaya Matthews, UWA