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Animals 2013, 3(2), 532-550; doi:10.3390/ani3020532
Article

A Longitudinal Study on Feeding Behaviour and Activity Patterns of Released Chimpanzees in Conkouati-Douli National Park, Republic of Congo

1,2,* , 1
,
3,4
 and
2
1 HELP Congo (Habitat Ecologique et Liberté des Primates), BP 335, Pointe Noire, Congo 2 Centre for Research in Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Life Sciences, Roehampton University, Holybourne Avenue, London SW15 4JD, UK 3 Danau Girang Field Centre, c/o Sabah Wildlife Department, Wisma Muis, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia 4 Organisms and Environment Division, Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Biomedical Sciences Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3AX, UK
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 26 April 2013 / Revised: 30 May 2013 / Accepted: 3 June 2013 / Published: 7 June 2013
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Simple Summary: Wild chimpanzee populations are dramatically declining due to anthropogenic pressure. One way of increasing wild population numbers and/or repopulating areas where local extinction has occurred is to release captive animals. HELP Congo was the first project to successfully release wild-born orphan chimpanzees in their natural environment. We studied the behaviour of eight released chimpanzees over eight years. Over time, they modified their behaviour, suggesting long-term behavioural and ecological adaptations. This suggests that successful release programmes may reinforce existing populations of endangered species.

Abstract

Wild chimpanzee populations are still declining due to logging, disease transmission and hunting. The bushmeat trade frequently leads to an increase in the number of orphaned primates. HELP Congo was the first project to successfully release wild-born orphan chimpanzees into an existing chimpanzee habitat. A collection of post monitoring data over 16 years now offers the unique opportunity to investigate possible behavioural adaptations in these chimpanzees. We investigated the feeding and activity patterns in eight individuals via focal observation techniques from 1997–1999 and 2001–2005. Our results revealed a decline in the number of fruit and insect species in the diet of released chimpanzees over the years, whereas within the same period of time, the number of consumed seed species increased. Furthermore, we found a decline in time spent travelling, but an increase in time spent on social activities, such as grooming, as individuals matured. In conclusion, the observed changes in feeding and activity patterns seem to reflect important long-term behavioural and ecological adaptations in wild-born orphan released chimpanzees, demonstrating that the release of chimpanzees can be successful, even if it takes time for full adaptation.
Keywords: chimpanzees; reintroduction; release; conservation; activity budget; diet; Republic of Congo chimpanzees; reintroduction; release; conservation; activity budget; diet; Republic of Congo
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Renaud, A.; Jamart, A.; Goossens, B.; Ross, C. A Longitudinal Study on Feeding Behaviour and Activity Patterns of Released Chimpanzees in Conkouati-Douli National Park, Republic of Congo. Animals 2013, 3, 532-550.

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