Project (2016-ongoing) Ecological and social factors influencing ranging decisions in a montane population of chimpanzees, Rwanda
February 4, 2016
Chimpanzee ranging decisions, along with many aspects of behaviour, are influenced by ecological, social and cultural factors that vary substantially among sites.
The availability and distribution of food resources is thought to be the primary factor determining chimpanzee space use, but neighbouring groups, topographic variation, access to mates, predation pressure and the location of their prey can also play significant parts in some populations.
The majority of chimpanzee research to date has been undertaken on a limited number of mid to low elevation populations, so surprisingly little is known about how chimpanzees adapt to survive in low-resource, montane environments.
Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda supports chimpanzees that occupy the highest altitudinal limit of their species distribution. This study will investigate how Nyungwe’s relatively low quality and sparsely distributed food resources, extremely rugged terrain and large sympatric group of colobus monkeys (chimpanzees preferred prey) influences the ranging decisions of chimpanzees and development of spatial memory.
It will also be the first study to use simultaneous focal follow data for sympatric chimpanzees and colobus monkeys to model the spatial-temporal dynamics of predator-prey interaction. Investigating chimpanzee ranging behaviour in new, unique environments is not only critical for effective conservation of this endangered species, but may expand our knowledge of chimpanzee behavioural diversity and provide insights to possible early hominid foraging strategies in similar environments.
Beth Kaplin, University of Rwanda and Antioch University of New England