Department of Primatology
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
phone: +49 (341) 3550 - 200
fax: +49 (341) 3550 - 299
We currently have projects at many different field sites in Africa.
Research at our main field site, located in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, began in 1998. While Bwindi is located only 30 km away from the Virunga Volcanoes, there are distinct differences in altitude and environment. Our research in Bwindi has focused on the feeding ecology, social behavior, and population dynamics. It is one of the first to make detailed behavioral observations on another population of gorillas besides those of the well-studied gorillas at the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda. We are also involved with projects that relate directly to park management, such as assisting the park service with a long term database of individuals in all of the gorilla groups habituated for tourism. Research on the Bwindi gorillas is conducted with close links to the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation with the intent that this research will also assist in management and conservation of the gorillas. We also have been providing lessons in conservation education to two primary schools neighboring Bwindi since 2008.
In January 2005 we started a new project in Loango National Park, Gabon. The goal of this long-term project is to habituate western gorillas and chimpanzees living in the same environment to address questions about variability in feeding ecology, sociality, culture, and demographic patterns. There are only a few long-term study sites in Africa attempting to study both habituated lowland gorillas and chimpanzees living in the same location. Loango is ecologically unique and distinct from other locations where western lowland gorillas have been studied. We chose Loango because it contains a mosaic of habitat types including seashore, coastal forest, lagoon, savannah, swamps, secondary forest, and primary forest. Several of the herb and fruit species commonly eaten by western gorillas at other locations (eg. Bai Hokou, Lopé) are absent or found in very low abundance in Loango. We have documented large differences in the ecology of gorillas in Loango compared to other sites. Therefore, this location provides us with an opportunity to better understand the ecological and behavioral flexibility possible in gorillas. We are still in the process of habituating the gorillas. In the meantime, we have been conducting research on the following topics:
- Feeding ecology and dietary overlap with chimpanzees,
- Abundance, density, and social structure of the apes and other large mammals. We have been using genetic analysis and motion sensored video camera ‘traps.
- Behavioral changes during habituation and
- Monitoring of health and pathogens of the apes through fecal analysis.
We also have collaborative projects with the following research sites:
Karisoke Research Center, Rwanda, a project of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI). Our collaboration involves several projects: life histories and demography using the long term records spanning 1967 to the present, feeding ecology, and female reproductive endocrinology.
Mbeli Bai, Republic of Congo, a project of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). This project involves assessing male life histories and reproductive strategies as well as demographic patterns of this population.
Bai Hokou, Central African Republic, a project of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). We have had several collaborative projects including feeding ecology and a comparison of vocal behavior between western gorillas and Bwindi mountain gorillas.
Cross River Gorillas, Nigeria, a project of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). This project involves assessing the ecological and anthropogenic impacts on habitat for the critically endangered Cross River Gorillas.