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Health monitoring and medicinal plant use by bonobos at LuiKotale in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kreyer, M (2022) Health monitoring and medicinal plant use by bonobos at LuiKotale in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Doctoral thesis, LJMU.

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Infectious diseases are a major threat to the survival and fitness of all great ape species. Because of their close genetic relatedness, great apes share human susceptibility to a variety of viral, bacterial and parasitic infections. In the context of a growing human population and increasing habitat encroachment, pathogen transmission is of great concern for both humans and great apes. Therefore, monitoring great ape health status is key to understanding pathogen-host dynamics.
Here, I studied two communities of habituated bonobos (Pan paniscus) at the LuiKotale field site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between December 2018 and July 2020. I first looked at health impairments and how they influence feeding behaviour and food choice in bonobos. I then investigated the consumption of Manniophyton fulvum leaves and stem bark by bonobos, and its association with parasite presence in faeces. Lastly, I measured individual urinary neopterin levels as a marker for the activation of cellular immunity, and studied how urinary neopterin varied with season, individual age, sex, reproductive status, and the presence of visual sickness symptoms. I found the presence of health impairments predicted neither a change in feeding behaviour nor an increased consumption of medicinal plant candidates. I hypothesized that bonobos used medicinal plant candidates as prophylaxis rather than cures. The consumption of M. fulvum leaves and stem bark was not associated with the presence of strongyle worms and cestode proglottids in faeces. My results suggest alternative triggers of the consumption of M. fulvum, including intestinal pain and discomfort. Finally, I found urinary neopterin levels increased with the presence of respiratory symptoms and fluctuated over a one-year period. I discussed the possible link to malaria and other infectious diseases in bonobo’s neopterin variation.
This study highlights the extent of medicinal plant use by bonobos at LuiKotale and sheds light on ecoimmunological aspects of the species. Further research is needed to understand the nature of diseases and infections carried by and affecting bonobos in order to better understand how individuals use medicinal plant candidates to maintain and restore health in the wild.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Bonobo; Pan paniscus; Medicinal plants; Medicative behavior; Health monitoring; Gastro-intestinal parasites
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
R Medicine > RV Botanic, Thomsonian, and eclectic medicine
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (from Sep 19)
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 18 Oct 2022 12:37
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2022 12:37
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00017828
Supervisors: Fruth, B, Hutcheon, G and Behringer, V
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/17828
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