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Assessing the conservation status of the bonobo (Pan paniscus): results from Salonga National Park (DRC), and suggestions for a range-wide approach towards a new action plan

Bessone, M (2022) Assessing the conservation status of the bonobo (Pan paniscus): results from Salonga National Park (DRC), and suggestions for a range-wide approach towards a new action plan. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Abstract

All great ape species and subspecies are currently classified as endangered or critically endangered in the IUCN Red List, with wild populations declining at unprecedented rates. Among them, the bonobo (Pan paniscus) is perhaps the least known. With only 30% of its geographical range having been surveyed, the data needed for assessing its status and trend were lacking until 2016, preventing an update of its conservation status. Here, I investigated novel and traditional field methods for the assessment of bonobo populations, using data acquired in Salonga National Park (SNP), Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). First, I used 16,700 camera-trap videos to apply camera-trap distance sampling (CTDS), a recent method for estimating population density, to the bonobo and 13 other species. Second, I analysed 1,511 bonobo nests and 15 years of climatic data (2003–2018), to investigate factors involved in nest decay, evaluating the effects of inaccurate nest decay times on density estimates via traditional nest counts. Finally, I integrated datasets from 13 different surveys in SNP conducted over two time periods (2002-2008; 2012-2018) including detection/non-detection, count data and CTDS to estimate bonobo status and trend, using specifically calculated nest decay times. I showed that CTDS was an excellent method providing wildlife density and abundance, particularly important for threatened species, and highlighted issues in the application to different species, with reactivity to the cameras being the main source of bias for the bonobo. I found that decreasing precipitation triggered longer decay times of bonobo nests in SNP, with the number of storms being the main factor driving nest decay although a behavioural adaptation with bonobos strengthening nest structure in response to harsh precipitation. In addition, I showed that failure to account for nest-specific biotic and abiotic conditions, would lead to bonobo estimates biased up to 60%. Finally, I showed that an integrated analysis helped mitigating biases peculiar to specific survey methods, revealing an important, stable bonobo population in SNP. Here, a pristine habitat and the presence of rangers exerted a positive effect on bonobo abundance, as did ancestral taboos. The results of this thesis showed that new methodologies like CTDS, providing density estimates without the need of conversion factors, retain high potential for future population monitoring and conservation. Nevertheless, with necessary precautions such as application of time specific decay rates, implementation of traditional methods still provides accurate assessment of status and trend. The methods and recommendations described here are meant to serve as basis for a range-wide assessment, informing the new bonobo conservation strategy due in 2022.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Camera traps; Conservation; Density estimation; Distance sampling; Integrated population models; Nest decay; Pan paniscus; Salonga National Park
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (new Sep 19)
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2022 10:13
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2022 10:13
DOI or Identification number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00016538
Supervisors: Fruth, B, Brown, R and Kuehl, H
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/16538

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