Ranging Patterns of a Western Gorilla Group During Habituation to Humans in the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Republic
Author: Cipolletta, C.
Source: International Journal of Primatology, Volume 24, Number 6, 200312 , pp. 1207-1226(20)
Abstract:The ranging patterns of western gorillas have been described in relation to their more frugivorous diet as compared to mountain gorillas. However, the lack of data from habituated groups prevents a full understanding of their ranging behavior and its implications for western gorilla social behavior. Unhabituated gorillas often flee from approaching researchers, possibly resulting in longer daily ranges and home range expansions and/or shifts. I report on the influence of habituation on the ranging patterns of a western gorilla group. I analyzed progress in habituation through changes in gorilla reactions, displayed upon detecting the observers. I measured daily path length and home range while following the group's trails and monitored diet via fecal analyses and direct observations. During the study period, habituation progressed and the gorillas increasingly ignored the arrival of observers. As a result, daily path lengths were longer during the early stages of habituation, when the gorillas were avoiding observers. There was no range expansion or shift, though the measure is more difficult to investigate, being subject to error due to variation in sample size. We recorded seasonal changes in the consumption of fruit by gorillas, but no direct effect on ranging patterns is detectable with the data available, which is likely a consequence of the combined effect of habituation and seasonality on group movements. The findings are not only important for understanding the extent of human influence while conducting research on wild gorillas but also suggest the need for caution when interpreting results from non-habituated gorillas.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Chloé Cipolletta, Dzanga-Sangha Project, WWF, BP 1053, Bangui, Central African Republic;, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Publication date: January 1, 2003