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Density estimates and nesting-site selection in chimpanzees of the Nimba Mountains, Côte d'Ivoire, and Guinea



We investigated nesting behavior of non habituated chimpanzees populating the Nimba Mountains to document their abundance and their criterions of nesting-site selection. During a 19-month study we walked 80 km of transects and recces each month, and recorded 764 nests (mean group size = 2.23 nests) along with characteristics of vegetation structure and composition, topography, and seasonality. Population density estimated with two nest count methods ranged between 0.14 and 0.65 chimpanzee/km2. These values are lower than previous estimates, emphasizing the necessity of protecting remaining wild ape populations. Chimpanzees built nests in 108 tree species out of 437 identified, but 2.3% of total species comprised 52% of nests. Despite they preferred nesting in trees of 25–29 cm DBH and at a mean height of 8.02 m, we recorded an important proportion of terrestrial nests (8.2%) that may reflect a cultural trait of Nimba chimpanzees. A logistic model of nest presence formulated as a function of 12 habitat variables revealed preference for gallery and mountain forests rather than lowland forest, and old-growth forest rather than secondary forests. They nested more frequently in the study area during the dry season (December–April). The highest probability of observing nests was at 770 m altitude, particularly in steep locations (mean ground declivity = 15.54%). Several of the reported nest characteristics combined with the existence of two geographically separated clusters of nest, suggest that the study area constitutes the non-overlapping peripheral areas of two distinct communities. This nest-based study led us to findings on the behavioral ecology of Nimba chimpanzees, which constitute crucial knowledge to implement efficient and purpose-built conservation. Am. J. Primatol. 76:999–1010, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.