Decay rates of arboreal and terrestrial nests of Eastern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in the Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, Uganda: implications for population size estimates

Toni Romani*, Roger Mundry, Gerald Mayanja Shaban, Marek Konarzewski, Mary Namaganda, Catherine Hobaiter, Thibaud Gruber, Thurston Cleveland Hicks

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Chimpanzees were once thought to sleep primarily in the trees, but recent studies indicate that some populations also construct terrestrial night nests. This behavior has relevance not only to understanding the behavioral diversity of Pan troglodytes, but also to the conservation of the species, given that nest encounter rates are often used to estimate great ape population densities. A proper estimate of decay rates for ground nests is necessary for converting the encounter rate of nests to the density of weaned chimpanzees. Here we present the results of the first systematic comparative study between the decay rates of arboreal and terrestrial chimpanzee nests, from the Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in western Uganda. We followed the decay of 56 ground and 51 tree nests in eight nest groups between April 2020 and October 2021. For 15 of the ground and 19 of the tree nests, we collected detailed information on the condition of the nests every two weeks; we checked the remaining 73 nests only twice. On average, ground nests lasted 238 days versus 276 days for tree nests (p=0.05). Of the 107 total nests surveyed, 51% of tree and 64% of ground nests had disappeared after six months. Based on our results, we propose a modification of the formula used to convert nest density into chimpanzee density. Our results highlight the importance of taking into account potential differences in decay rates between ground versus tree nests, which will likely influence our understanding of the distribution of ground nesting behavior in chimpanzee across tropical Africa, as well as our estimations of the densities of ground nesting populations.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23536
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Volume85
Issue number9
Early online date28 Jul 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

Keywords

  • Eastern chimpanzees
  • Ground nesting
  • Nest decay
  • Nest half-life

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