The behaviour and adaptation of reintroduced chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) in the Republic of Congo
Increasing and unsustainable demands on Africa's natural resources are having a profound effect on wild primate populations. Whilst wild populations are decreasing, numbers of orphaned primates, sanctuaries and attempts to reintroduce primates back to the natural environment, are increasing. Data were collected on the present status of African ape sanctuaries from questionnaires distributed to sanctuary managers. Across Africa there are 18 sanctuaries housing over 500 African great apes. Facilities and ideologies vary but the majority of sanctuaries profess a commitment to conservation through education, local capacity building, facilitating the enforcement of wildlife laws and other activities. From 1996 to 2001 the non-governmental organisation Habitat Ecologique et Liberte des Primates has released 37 wild-born chimpanzees(Pan troglodytes troglodytes) from an island sanctuary to mainland forest in the Conkouati-Douli National Park, Republic of Congo. Twenty-seven chimpanzees have been successfully reintroduced, three are known to have died and the status of seven remains unknown. This thesis investigated the behavioural adaptation of 15 of these released chimpanzees and reviews the reintroduction process employed. Analyses of post-release behavioural data revealed that activity budgets and diet were comparable to those of wild chimpanzees, and that seasonal variation influenced feeding behaviour and plant speciess election. The chimpanzees utilised both terrestrial and arboreal zones and all nested in trees. A number of recommendations are made for future reintroduction projects. These include selecting a release site that has no, or a low density of, wild conspecifics; developing a relationship of trust between chimpanzee and caretakers without excessive dependency; using the release site for pre-release training; use of radio telemetry; post-release support and monitoring. This study has revealed the many complex factors that are involved in the reintroduction process. Future attempts to reintroduce chimpanzees should be guided by the experiences and recommendations of the present study to maximise success.