Since its creation the department has concentrated on long-term field projects encompassing all of the African Great Apes. We have maintained field research stations in Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon and the DRC or collaborated with existing projects such as Kokolopori in the DRC and in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. The long-term approach is the only one that allows investigation of essential evolutionary questions pertaining to demography, population structures, life-history responses, food and climatic annual variations, physiological responses and life-time reproductive success.
At present, the department includes several core research groups focusing on wild great ape populations, such as the chimpanzee group working in Taï National Park in the Côte d'Ivoire, as well as in Loango National Park, in southern Gabon, and also collaborating with the Ngogo and Budongo chimpanzee projects, in Uganda. Thebonobo group works now in Kokolopori in the Democratic Republic of Congo but we continue to collaborate with the Lui Kotal project in the Salonga National Park. The gorilla group concentrates its fieldwork on the mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda, as well as western gorillas in Loango and in addition conducts collaborative projects on western gorilla populations in Central African Republic, Republic of Congo and Nigeria.
Our three core research laboratories use genetic, hormonal and stable isotope analyses, respectively, in collaborative projects with these field groups as well as others. Similarly, the GIS laboratory and the long-term collaboration with the Robert Koch Institute allow us a complete consideration of ecological factors, including pathogens, affecting great apes.