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Patterns of gastro-intestinal parasites and commensals as an index of population and ecosystem health: the case of sympatric western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) and guinea baboons (Papio hamadryas papio) at Fongoli, Senegal

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Abstract

The exponential decline of great apes over the past 50 years has resulted in an urgent need for data to inform population viability assessment and conservation strategies. Health monitoring of remaining ape populations is an important component of this process. In support of this effort, we examined endoparasitic and commensal prevalence and richness as proxies of population health for western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) and sympatric guinea baboons (Papio hamadryas papio) at Fongoli, Senegal, a site dominated by woodland-savanna at the northwestern extent of chimpanzees' geographic range. The small population size and extreme environmental pressures experienced by Fongoli chimpanzees make them particularly sensitive to the potential impact of pathogens. One hundred thirty-two chimpanzee and seventeen baboon fecal samples were processed using sodium nitrate floatation and fecal sedimentation to isolate helminth eggs, larvae, and protozoal cysts. Six nematodes (Physaloptera sp., Ascaris sp., Stronglyloides fuelleborni, Trichuris sp., an unidentified hookworm, and an unidentified larvated nematode), one cestode (Bertiella sp.), and five protozoans (Iodamoeba buetschlii, Entamoeba coli, Troglodytella abrassarti, Troglocorys cava, and an unidentified ciliate) were detected in chimpanzee fecal samples. Four nematodes (Necator sp., S. fuelleborni, Trichuris sp., and an unidentified hookworm sp.), two trematodes (Shistosoma mansoni and an unidentified fluke), and six protozoans (Entamoeba histolytica/dispar, E. coli, Chilomastix mesnili, Balantidium coli, T. abrassarti, and T. cava) were detected in baboon fecal samples. The low prevalence of pathogenic parasite species and high prevalence of symbiotic protozoa in Fongoli chimpanzees are indicative of good overall population health. However, the high prevalence of pathogenic parasites in baboons, who may serve as transport hosts, highlight the need for ongoing pathogen surveillance of the Fongoli chimpanzee population and point to the need for further research into the epidemiology and cross-species transmission ecology of zoonotic pathogens at this site. Am. J. Primatol. 73:173–179, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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