07.12.2019 - 20:47
A  A

Department of Primatology

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

phone: +49 (341) 3550 - 200
fax: +49 (341) 3550 - 299

Jessica Junker

Great Ape Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Group
Department of Primatology
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

phone: +49 341 3550 805 
fax: +49 341 3550 299 
e-mail: jessica_junker@[>>> Please remove the brackets! <<<]eva.mpg.de



My research focuses on global, regional and site-specific population dynamics among great apes, and the factors influencing these. I am also interested in conservation planning and socio-economic correlates of biodiversity and wildlife abundance. With my work, I strive to bridge important disciplinary and implementation gaps, where my many collaborators include national government and policy makers, development firms, conservation NGOs, biodiversity consultants, as well as social anthropologists and scientists from the social and political sciences. I have already advised on numerous consultancy projects, including the World Bank Group (WBG), Golden Veroleum, Global Witness, the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

Current research

I am currently involved in conducting a follow-up of a nationwide interview survey. I completed the first interview survey while collecting nationwide data on chimpanzees and other large mammals in Liberia in 2012. The follow-up survey aims at gathering information on the effect of the recent Ebola crisis on natural resource consumption, hunting practice, law enforcement, income, food consumption, education, migration, security and social interactions. We also collect data on people’s perceptions about knowledge production, conservation and development, Liberia’s medical support system, and potential Ebola vectors. We intend to conduct a second follow-up survey in 2016 to investigate whether/how fast people’s ‘memory’ about Ebola and associated behavior, change back to the behavioral patterns from before the Ebola outbreak. This project is in collaboration with the Max-Planck Institute for Social Anthropology.

At the same time, I am also involved in amalgamating all evidence from the scientific literature about the effects of primate conservation interventions to support future primate conservation decisions. In addition, this projects aims at identifying geographical and contextual primate conservation research gaps. Furthermore, I will use the information to test whether 1) conservation and research effort reflect conservation needs for primates, 2) science effectively informs primate conservation management, and 3) conservation ‘pays-off’ in terms of costs and effectiveness. This project is in collaboration with Cambridge University.

My PhD

Title: Great apes in a changing world: Addressing socio-economic needs and future conservation challenges.

My PhD-research focused on global, regional and site-specific great ape population dynamics and the factors influencing these.

I quantified range-wide African great ape population change over time and identified population hotspots and areas of exceptional conservation concern (Junker et al. 2012). Using more than 15,000 ape presence localities from 68 different sites and relating these to environmental and human impact variables, I mapped the distribution of suitable environmental conditions (SEC) for eight African great ape taxa from the 1990s to the 2000s. As landscapes increasingly became human-dominated, SEC significantly decreased over the past 20 years.

As part of my PhD field research, I coordinated a nationwide chimpanzee and mammal survey across Liberia from August 2010 to May 2012 (Tweh et al. 2014). The data I collected during the survey allowed for the accurate estimation of chimpanzee distribution and abundance, as well as spatial patterns of mammal species diversity and human threats. The data serve as a platform for conservation authorities to inform future management decisions.

In combination with socio-economic data available for Liberia, I also investigated, which socio-economic factors, such as education, access to protein, poverty and traditional beliefs, influenced species diversity and chimpanzee densities in Liberia (Junker et al. 2015). This work was important, because large amounts of money are being invested into promoting conservation through alleviating poverty. However, rigorous evaluations of the proposed connection between poverty reduction and improved environmental health remain rare. Contrary to the assumptions underlying ‘Integrated Conservation and Development Projects’, I was not able to show a link between development and improved wildlife and biodiversity conservation. In fact, areas with better economic and infrastructure development coincided with reduced large mammal species richness compared to less developed areas.

Future plans for the large-scale extraction of timber and mineral resources and current widespread and high hunting rates present major threats to Liberia’s wildlife populations. Fortunately, however, Liberia’s government signed an agreement in 2003 to establish a ‘biologically representative protected area network’ that will cover at least 30% of the country’s forests (MFA 2003). Collaborating with the country’s government agencies, international donors, conservation NGOs, and private development companies, I identified and evaluated priority areas for chimpanzees and biodiversity in Liberia under different land-use scenarios (Junker et al. in review). This work bridges an important implementation gap as it will result in a quantifiable in situ conservation management output that should benefit Liberia’s people and wildlife.


My research is funded by the Max Planck Society, the Arcus Foundation, and the Robert Bosch Stiftung. 



My research is in collaboration with Cambridge University, the Forestry Development Authority Liberia, and the Max-Planck Institute for Social Anthropology.