Assessment of Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) population and habitat in Kwitanga Forest, western Tanzania.

Ndimuligo, Sood A.
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This study examined three aspects: estimation of chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) population size using nest density as a proxy, description of the plant community and assessment of human impacts to chimpanzee habitat in Kwitanga forest, western Tanzania. The overall estimated mean chimpanzee population density was 0.69(0.31–1.54) individuals per km2 and a mean population size of 15(7-34) weaned individual chimpanzees in the forest. The natural vegetation in Kwitanga consists mainly of miombo woodland, dominated by Brachystegia-Julbernadia tree species, poorly developed riverine forest, cultivated land and oil palm plantation. Assessment of the abundance of nesting trees in the landscape revealed that tree species composition along transects were significantly different to nesting sites (trees surrounding the actual tree that contains a nest) (Kolmogorov-Smirnov test: KSa = 2.0148; D = 0.3934: P < 0.05). Thirteen tree species were used for nests; the most used species were B. bussei, B. utilis, B. mirophylla, J. globiflora and P. tinctorius. The assessment on scarcity of nesting tree species in the landscape revealed that such species were abundant by proportion (KSa = 0.5883; D = 0.2308; P > 0.05), and species-specific density (Wilcoxon Z-test: Z = - 1.0265; U1= U2 = 13; p > 0.05). Trees in size classes between 10 cm and 40 cm diameter dominated the forest. The study on size suitability showed that there were significant differences (using ANOVA with Tukey’s HSD post hoc test) in tree diameter size among the three groups: transects, nesting sites, and nesting trees. Nesting trees were unique in size to the other two groups. The mean size of nesting trees was larger compared to both nesting sites and transects (27 ± 1.1 cm; 23 ± 0.7 cm and 18 ± 0.5 cm) respectively. Similar differences existed in tree densities between nesting sites and transects (Wilcoxon test: Z = 1.8104; U1 = 46, U2 = 61: P< 0.05), with nesting sites presenting higher tree density. These results indicated scarcity in trees of a size suitable for nesting, and nesting materials.. Nesting tree species occur in the landscape, though their sizes and higher tree species density at nesting sites determined nesting location choice and specific nesting tree selection. Tree felling indicated by stumps was the major threat to the availability of suitable nesting trees, with a higher encounter rate of seven (7) stumps per km and contributed 48 % of total human disturbance, followed by established fields in the forest. The analysis on the direction of the major threat to the habitat revealed that, the main road cutting through the forest is a key to tree felling. Encountered stumps declined with increased distance from the main road towards the forest edge, with more stumps in between 0 -100 m (P< 0.05; log (Y) = 1.7017 - 0.0007(X); R2 = 0.6705). Such findings implied that the prison inside the forest is a iii major cause of habitat decline. At least 30 tree species constituted the group of stumps. Julbernadia globiflora and Uapaca kirkiana were the most felled tree species. High human disturbances implied by higher human activities encounter rates, and overlapping tree size classes between felled and standing trees were the major threats to chimpanzee habitat in Kwitanga forest. High chimpanzee density and population size estimates in Kwitanga forest renders this area a potential for conservation in the Greater Gombe Ecosystem Program. Kwitanga being the largest remaining natural forest near Gombe National Park, it will increase habitat size to allow chimpanzee dispersal and feeding area. Such movements across heterogeneous landscapes would allow long-term survival through reduced competition, increased genetic diversity and ability to absorb minimal environmental shocks
Chimpanzee, Population estimate, Habitat degradation, Conservation