Chimps keep numbers high as forest losses mount

chimp mother and baby

Chimpanzees in western Uganda have fared better than researchers previously estimated.

Jack Lester

Chimpanzees have weathered human-caused forest loss surprisingly well, a new study finds. More than three times as many chimps inhabit patches of jungle in western Uganda than previously suspected.

Genetic analyses of 865 chimp poop samples gathered over 15 months enabled the identification of 182 of the apes. Between 246 and 357 chimps from at least nine communities inhabit the study area, investigators report August 25 in BMC Ecology. A previous estimate that only about 70 chimps lived in this unprotected region, which retains spots of intact forest, was based on the number of chimp nests spotted by researchers.

Partially leveled forests can serve as geographic corridors connecting wildlife preserves, promoting mating across surviving populations of chimps and other endangered animals, the researchers propose.

Bruce Bower

Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.

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