Monitoring of great ape their forest habitats

by Igh

The Itombwe Mountains hosts two species of great ape:  the Eastern chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) and the Grauer’s gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri). Since its inception in 2014, IGH is conducting an ongoing community monitoring scheme of chimpanzees and gorillas in Itombwe to ensure their survival and gradually increase their population number here.

Community monitoring of chimpanzees and gorillas carried out by IGH in Itombwe Mountains involve gathering information on temporal changes in population size and any major threats that endanger their long-term survival. Without monitoring data, we may lose the opportunity to properly conserve and increase great ape populations in Itombwe.

Each month of the year, we collect data in the field using indirect traces of great ape presence (including nests, dungs, footprints and food remains).  This indirect approach is used because great ape in Itombwe are not yet habituated to human presence.

Data collected in the field include number of ape nests encountered at each nest site; suitable habitat (structural characteristics and species composition of vegetation); geographic coordinates (geo-referenced data) on the location of the ape nest site; and signs of human disturbances such as the presence of traps, shotgun cartridges, signs of logging and mining, paths, agriculture and camps, with the location and estimated age of each.

Information gained through our ongoing monitoring scheme allow for understanding the status and ecology of gorilla and chimpanzee populations in Itombwe, their ranging patterns, their core and preferred habitat areas, and the impacts of hunting and other human disturbance that jeopardize their long term survival.  Such information is often used for appropriate management response to improve the conservation status of these animal species in Itombwe Mountains.

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