, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 41-49
Date: 04 Jun 2013

Plant selection for nest building by western lowland gorillas in Cameroon

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Abstract

We examined 834 nests built by western lowland gorillas in Cameroon between July 2008 and July 2011 to identify the plant species used in their construction. Preference for each plant species for nesting was assessed using a ‘preference index’ calculated by combining information on the occurrence of each species in the forest and in the nests. Forty-six plant species representing about 15 % of the total number of species in the forest and 26 % of species used for nest building were frequently used by gorillas. Preference levels significantly varied among these species. Nests were mostly built with herbs of the families Marantaceae and Zingiberaceae and woody species such as Manniophyton fulvum (liana) and Alchornea floribunda (shrub). As observed in other gorilla populations, suitability for nest building and availability of gorilla food in stems were the likely determinants of plant selection. The total number of species used per nest ranged from 1 to 11, with an average of 4.9. This is high compared to other sites, emphasizing variability in the availability of nest building materials and habitat differences across the range of the western gorilla. Seasonal changes in the use of different habitat types for nesting did not appear to influence plant use for nest building as there was little variation in plant selection across seasons or the composition of nests. Our findings suggest that gorillas non-randomly select plant species to build nests, and use a particular set of species combined at varying proportions, with no clear seasonal or spatial patterns.