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Thesis title: Great ape conservation in the matrix: investigating the impacts of human activities on the socio-ecology of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in a forest-farm mosaic
Start year: 2014
As tropical forests become increasingly lost and fragmented, their non-human inhabitants must either adapt or perish. Many species are known to survive in human-influenced habitats, but to what extent their survival is secure and how different species adapt to various anthropogenic activities is not yet understood. Faced with an exceptionally high human population growth rate, the forests in and around Budongo Forest Reserve in Western Uganda are under pressure for agricultural land as well as demands for fuelwood, timber for construction and hunting. Whilst Budongo Forest Reserve is protected, the forests connecting it to the nearest large forest block, Bugoma Forest Reserve, are set in a human-dominated landscape mosaic of sugarcane plantations, crop gardens and roads, and many are privately owned and being cleared.
My research aims to investigate the relationship between various habitat disturbance types and socio-ecological responses of two chimpanzee communities in and around the Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda neither of which have been the subject of any previous long-term studies. Each site varies in terms of the degree of anthropogenic exposure and level of protection: Waibira, inside the reserve and with low exposure to human activities, and Kasongoire, outside the reserve and exposed to crops, roads and human settlements.
I will compare the types and levels of in human activities at each site and aim to understand how these influence chimpanzee party composition, feeding and ranging behaviour. Through a spatial analysis of chimpanzee and human habitat uses and overlap I will highlight areas of potential high human wildlife interactions and identify factors which may influence this, such as land tenure, and distance from roads, water sources and human settlements.
Through adopting a comparative method focusing on protected and unprotected forests and from both a chimpanzee and human perspective, my research aims to take a holistic approach to understanding how humans and chimpanzees can co-exist in areas where there is a high degree of overlapping demands on the forest.
Chimpanzee; forest fragmentation; crop-raiding; human-wildlife interactions; behavioural flexibility; primate adaptations to anthropogenic habitats; conservation
Primate behaviour; impacts of tropical forest fragmentation and human habitat disturbances on forest-dependent species; human-wildlife conflict mitigation strategies; ethnoprimatology