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Identifying hotspots of chimpanzee group activity from transect surveys in Taï National Park, Côte d'Ivoire

  • Célestin Yao Kouakou (a1) (a2) (a3) (a4), Christophe Boesch (a3) (a4) and Hjalmar S. Kuehl (a3)

Locating activity hotspots – areas of higher density, more intense use, or distinct social units – is a prerequisite for answering many questions in animal ecology. However, for many species, carrying out such research from direct observations in tropical habitat is time-consuming and unrealistic for non-habituated animals. This study aimed to locate chimpanzee home ranges from transect nest counts. For validation purposes, 233 line transects were sampled within the home ranges of four habituated social groups of chimpanzees in Taï National Park, Côte d'Ivoire. In total, 373 km of transects were surveyed over 188 days and 683 nests of chimpanzee were recorded. First, we characterized heterogeneity of nest distribution patterns, including variation in density and group size within the area. Second, we used scan statistics, a likelihood-based cluster technique to locate chimpanzee social groups and compared them with the known home range boundaries. Chimpanzee nest distribution was characterized by a positive density and group-size gradient away from the range periphery. Furthermore, nest distribution clusters corresponding to the four groups could be successfully identified, although additional clusters for, for example, low-density areas between social groups seem to be an unavoidable by-product. The approach taken can be extended to a wide spectrum of data stemming from direct observations, camera traps, acoustic or genetic sampling to derive information about structure and patchiness of wild animal populations.

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