Growing human population and poaching are the major threats to the survival of the endangered great apes-the bonobos. Due to habitat destruction by human activity, bonobos are losing living space, according to a new study.
A collaborative study conducted by a group of international researchers found that bonobos- one of the closet relatives of homo sapiens, shun regions with high human activity as well as forest fragmentation. Due to this, Africa’s poorly known endangered ape is limited to just 28 percent of the range suitable for living.
This finding was based on the model developed by researchers that used information from nest counts and remote sensing imagery.
“This assessment is a major step towards addressing the substantial information gap regarding the conservation status of bonobos across their entire range,” lead author Dr. Jena R. Hickey of Cornell University and the University of Georgia, said in a statement. “The results of the study demonstrate that human activities reduce the amount of effective bonobo habitat and will help us identify where to propose future protected areas for this great ape.”.
In order for the endangered species to thrive for the next 100 years or even longer, it is crucial that conservationists determine the size of their range, where they live and what drives their dispersal in the habitable regions. It is only after this, that people can steer the conservation actions in a very effective manner, explains Ashley Vosper of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The bonobos’ range is present within the lowland forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a politically disturbed country, which made data collection all the more difficult. A predictive model was constructed using the field data that was available, which also included the areas that lacked the data. The data of bonobo nest locations that was gathered by several organizations from 2003-2010 was finally compiled. The data yielded some 2364 nest blocks in which one block was defined as 1 hectare area occupied by one bonobo nest.
“Bonobos that live in closer proximity to human activity and to points of human access are more vulnerable to poaching, one of their main threats,” said Dr. Janet Nackoney, a Research Assistant Professor at University of Maryland and second author of the study. “Our results point to the need for more places where bonobos can be safe from hunters, which is an enormous challenge in the DRC.”.
After considering the ecological factors as well as human impacts the researchers created a spatial model mapping the environmental factors that support the presence of the bonobos. Distance from agricultural areas was a determining factor in their habitat. Apart from finding that just 28 percent of the bonobo range was suitable for the great ape the researchers also discovered that only 27.5 percent of this suitable range was located in the existing protected areas.
“The fact that only a quarter of the bonobo range is located within protected areas is a finding that decision-makers can use to improve management of existing protected areas, and expand the country’s parks and reserves in order to save vital habitat for this great ape,” said Innocent Liengola, WCS’s Project Director for the Bonobo Conservation Project and co-author on the study.
The data yielded some 2364 nest blocks in which one block was defined as 1 hectare area occupied by one bonobo nest.
After considering the ecological factors as well as human impacts the researchers created a spatial model mapping the environmental factors that support the presence of the bonobos. Apart from finding that just 28 percent of the bonobo range was suitable for the great ape the researchers also discovered that only 27.5 percent of this suitable range was located in the existing protected areas.