Plant Species with Potential as Food, Nesting Material, or Tools at a Chimpanzee Refuge Site in Caddo Parish, Louisiana
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- Horvath, J.L., Croswell, M., O’Malley, R.C. et al. Int J Primatol (2007) 28: 135. doi:10.1007/s10764-006-9106-4
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Surplus chimpanzees live in research laboratories where they will likely remain for the rest of their lives. An alternative to laboratory housing is an outdoor enclosure in a warm climate. Before construction, researchers should conduct a vegetation survey because chimpanzees use vegetation daily. Chimp Haven, Inc. is developing a chimpanzee sanctuary in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, and we conducted a vegetation survey at the site to 1) characterize the abundance and structure of vegetation; 2) identify plants with utility as food, nesting material, or tools; 3) determine the abundance and distribution of useful vegetation; and 4) identify any possibly hazardous vegetation. We established 48 plots, quantified the woody vegetation, and identified potentially useful and hazardous plant species from the published literature. Vegetation at the site was secondary growth from logging of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), the most abundant tree. Other abundant trees included oak (Quercus spp.), elm (Ulmus spp.), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and maple (Acer spp.). Small plants (1–9.9 m tall) constituted 95% of all vegetation. Forty-one of 64 plant species have edible vegetative parts, while 35 species have edible reproductive parts. We identified 55 potential nesting trees by size (dbh ≥ 25 cm) and 4 species used as tools by captive great apes. Useful vegetation was concentrated in areas with topographic relief or in a floodplain, while flat areas with fields had less. We recommend that the floodplain be cropped for fruit and browse and enclosures encompass areas with relief and fields, creating a diverse habitat.