SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • Pan troglodytes;
  • conservation;
  • habituation;
  • ethnoprimatology;
  • aggression;
  • human-dominated landscapes

Abstract

We describe the behavior of a previously unstudied community of wild chimpanzees during opportunistic encounters with researchers in an unprotected forest–farm mosaic at Bulindi, Uganda. Data were collected during 115 encounters between May 2006 and January 2008. Individual responses were recorded during the first minute of visual contact. The most common responses were “ignore” for arboreal chimpanzees and “monitor” for terrestrial individuals. Chimpanzees rarely responded with “flight”. Adult males were seen disproportionately often relative to adult females, and accounted for 90% of individual responses recorded for terrestrial animals. Entire encounters were also categorized based on the predominant response of the chimpanzee party to researcher proximity. The most frequent encounter type was “ignore” (36%), followed by “monitor” (21%), “intimidation” (18%) and “stealthy retreat” (18%). “Intimidation” encounters occurred when chimpanzees were contacted in dense forest where visibility was low, provoking intense alarm and agitation. Adult males occasionally acted together to repel researchers through aggressive mobbing and pursuit. Chimpanzee behavior during encounters reflects the familiar yet frequently agonistic relationship between apes and local people at Bulindi. The chimpanzees are not hunted but experience high levels of harassment from villagers. Human-directed aggression by chimpanzees may represent a strategy to accommodate regular disruptions to foraging effort arising from competitive encounters with people both in and outside forest. Average encounter duration and proportion of encounters categorized as “ignore” increased over time, whereas “intimidation” encounters decreased, indicating some habituation occurred during the study. Ecotourism aimed at promoting tolerance of wildlife through local revenue generation is one possible strategy for conserving great apes on public or private land. However, the data imply that habituating chimpanzees for viewing-based ecotourism in heavily human-dominated landscapes, such as Bulindi, is ill-advised since a loss of fear of humans could lead to increased negative interactions with local people. Am. J. Primatol. Am. J. Primatol. 72:907–918, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.