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Keywords:

  • road-crossing;
  • risk perception;
  • protective behavior;
  • Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii;
  • Kibale National Park, Uganda

Despite the spread of road infrastructures throughout Africa to support regional development, industry, and tourism, few studies have examined how wild animals adapt their behavior and ecology in road-forest ecotones. Indeed, while numerous studies have demonstrated chimpanzee adaptability in anthropogenic landscapes, none have examined the effects of asphalted highways on wild chimpanzee behaviors. In a 29-month survey, we assessed the dangers posed by an asphalted road crossing the Sebitoli area of Kibale National Park (Uganda). We analyzed 122 individual chimpanzee crossings. Although the asphalted road represents a substantial threat to crossing animals (89 motorized vehicles per hour use this road and individuals of six different primate species were killed in 1 year), chimpanzees took into account this risk. More than 90% of the individuals looked right and left before and while crossing. Chimpanzees crossed in small subgroups (average 2.7 subgroups of 2.1 individuals per crossing event). Whole parties crossed more rapidly when chimpanzees were more numerous in the crossing groups. The individuals most vulnerable to the dangers of road crossing (females with dependents, immature, and severely injured individuals) crossed less frequently compared with non-vulnerable individuals (lone and healthy adolescents and adults). Moreover, healthy adult males, who were the most frequent crossing individuals, led progressions more frequently when crossing the road than when climbing or descending feeding trees. Almost 20% of the individuals that crossed paid attention to conspecifics by checking on them or waiting for them while crossing. These observations are relevant for our understanding of adaptive behavior among chimpanzees in human-impacted habitats. Further investigations are needed to better evaluate the effects of busy roads on adolescent female dispersal and on their use of territories. Mitigation measures (e.g., bridges, underpasses, reduced speed limits, speed-bumps, signposts, or police controls) should be established in this area. Am. J. Primatol. 77:890–900, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.