Nationwide census of gorilla (gorilla g. gorilla) and chimpanzee (Pan t. troglodytes) populations in Gabon



A census was made of gorilla and chimpanzee populations throughout Gabon between December 1980 and February 1983. The aim of the census was to estimate the total numbers of both species and describe their distributions. The method was based on nest counts from line transects which allowed the calculation of population densities of all individuals except suckling infants. Fifteen types of habitat were recognized and defined in terms of their structural features. In the initial phase of the study we did transects in each habitat-type and computed mean densities for each species in each habitat-type. In the second phase of the study we estimated the sizes of gorilla and chimpanzee populations throughout the country by extrapolation from these population density values. We did transects in all areas of the country and conducted interviews to check the accuracy of the population totals obtained by extrapolation. Corrections were made to the extrapolated totals to take into account different levels of hunting pressure and other human activities found to modify ape population densities. Total populations of 34,764 gorillas and 64,173 chimpanzees were estimated. An error of ± 20% was associated with the estimated population totals, which allows the conclusion that Gabon contains 35,000 ± 7,000 gorillas and 64,000 ± 13,000 chimpanzees. The figure for gorillas is much larger than previous estimates. This seems to be because (1) gorillas occur in almost all types of forest and are not restricted to man-made secondary forest as had been though; and (2) the geographical distribution of gorillas in Gabon is wider than previously believed. Gabon's large areas of undisturbed primary forest offer exceptional potential for conservation, not only of gorillas and chimpanzees, but also of the intact tropical rain forest ecosystems which they inhabit.