Chimps go bananas for agricultural crops

Friday, 15 August 2014

Wild Chimps

Researchers from Oxford Brookes University and the Centre for Research in Anthropology in Lisbon have discovered that wild chimpanzees will adapt eating habits when exposed to agricultural crops grown by humans.

Great Ape researchers Dr Matthew McLennan and Dr Kimberley Hockings found that the longer wild chimps are exposed to different agricultural crops, the more likely they are to incorporate an increasingly broad range of crops into their diet.

Great ape populations are declining rapidly throughout Africa.

When chimps use farmland and village areas they come into contact with novel diseases associated with people and livestock.

Dr Matthew McLennan, Oxford Brookes Anthropology Centre for Conservation, Environment & Development

While the study’s findings of ‘adaptive’ exploitation of human foods suggests chimps are flexible enough to cope with changing landscapes, in other respects the results are worrying.

Dr Matthew McLennan said, “When chimps use farmland and village areas they come into contact with novel diseases associated with people and livestock. But as well as the disease risks, they run the risk of hostile encounters with people.”

The authors of the report believe that by understanding the dynamic responses of wildlife to agriculture, we can better predict current and future adaptability of threatened species to human-driven land-use changes.

The hope is that this will lead to more effective conservation management and conflict mitigation in the future.

The full article, “Wild chimpanzees show group differences in selection of agricultural crops” is available as an open access publication on the website of Scientific Reports