Densities, distributions, and seasonal movements of gorillas and chimpanzees in swamp forest in northern Congo
The conservation of gorillas (Gorilla spp.) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) depends upon knowledge of their densities and distribution throughout their ranges. However, information about ape populations in swamp forests is scarce. Here we build on current knowledge of ape populations by conducting line transect surveys of nests throughout a reserve dominated by swamp forest: the Lac Télé Community Reserve in northern Congo. We estimated gorilla and chimpanzee densities, distributions across habitats, and seasonal changes in abundance. Gorilla density was 2.9 gorillas km-2, but densities varied by habitat (0.3-5.4 gorillas km-2) with highest densities in swamp forest and terra firma mixed forest. Average chimpanzee density is 0.7 chimpanzees km-2 (0.1-1.3 chimpanzees km -2), with highest densities in swamp forest. Habitat was the best predictor of ape nest abundance, as neither the number of human indices nor the distance from the nearest village predicted nest abundance. We recorded significantly greater numbers of apes in terra firma forest during the high-water season than the low-water season, indicating that many gorillas and chimpanzees are at times concentrated in terra firma forest amid a matrix of swamp forest. Seasonally high numbers of apes on terra firma forest islands easily accessible to local people may expose them to substantial hunting pressure. Conversely, the nearly impenetrable nature of swamp forests and their low value for logging makes them promising sites for the conservation of apes.
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