Original Paper

Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 13, pp 3085-3104

First online:

Human proximity and habitat fragmentation are key drivers of the rangewide bonobo distribution

  • Jena R. HickeyAffiliated withDepartment of Natural Resources, Cornell University Email author 
  • , Janet NackoneyAffiliated withDepartment of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland
  • , Nathan P. NibbelinkAffiliated withWarnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia
  • , Stephen BlakeAffiliated withMax Planck Institute of Ornithology
  • , Aime BonyengeAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society
  • , Sally CoxeAffiliated withBonobo Conservation Initiative
  • , Jef DupainAffiliated withAfrican Wildlife Foundation Conservation Centre
  • , Maurice EmetshuAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society
  • , Takeshi FuruichiAffiliated withPrimate Research Institute, Kyoto University
    • , Falk GrossmannAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society
    • , Patrick GuislainAffiliated withBonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative, Zoological Society of Milwaukee
    • , John HartAffiliated withLukuru Foundation
    • , Chie HashimotoAffiliated withPrimate Research Institute, Kyoto University
    • , Bernard IkembeloAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society
    • , Omari IlambuAffiliated withWorld Wildlife Fund, DRC
    • , Bila-Isia InogwabiniAffiliated withWorld Wildlife Fund, DRC
    • , Innocent LiengolaAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society
    • , Albert Lotana LokasolaAffiliated withKokolopori Bonobo Nature Reserve
    • , Alain LushimbaAffiliated withAfrican Wildlife Foundation
    • , Fiona MaiselsAffiliated withWildlife Conservation SocietySchool of Natural Sciences, Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling
    • , Joel MasselinkAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society
    • , Valentin MbenzoAffiliated withCongo Basin Ecosystems Conservation Support Program (PACEBCo)
    • , Norbert Mbangia MulavwaAffiliated withCenter of Research in Ecology and Forestry (CREF), Ministry of Education and Scientific Research
    • , Pascal NakyAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society
    • , Nicolas Mwanza NdundaAffiliated withCenter of Research in Ecology and Forestry (CREF), Ministry of Education and Scientific Research
    • , Pele NkumuAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society
    • , Valentin OmasomboAffiliated withCongolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN)
    • , Gay Edwards ReinartzAffiliated withBonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative, Zoological Society of Milwaukee
    • , Robert RoseAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society
    • , Tetsuya SakamakiAffiliated withPrimate Research Institute, Kyoto University
    • , Samantha StrindbergAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society
    • , Hiroyuki TakemotoAffiliated withPrimate Research Institute, Kyoto University
    • , Ashley VosperAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society
    • , Hjalmar S. KühlAffiliated withMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

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Habitat loss and hunting threaten bonobos (Pan paniscus), Endangered (IUCN) great apes endemic to lowland rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Conservation planning requires a current, data-driven, rangewide map of probable bonobo distribution and an understanding of key attributes of areas used by bonobos. We present a rangewide suitability model for bonobos based on a maximum entropy algorithm in which data associated with locations of bonobo nests helped predict suitable conditions across the species’ entire range. We systematically evaluated available biotic and abiotic factors, including a bonobo-specific forest fragmentation layer (forest edge density), and produced a final model revealing the importance of simple threat-based factors in a data poor environment. We confronted the issue of survey bias in presence-only models and devised a novel evaluation approach applicable to other taxa by comparing models built with data from geographically distinct sub-regions that had higher survey effort. The model’s classification accuracy was high (AUC = 0.82). Distance from agriculture and forest edge density best predicted bonobo occurrence with bonobo nests more likely to occur farther from agriculture and in areas of lower edge density. These results suggest that bonobos either avoid areas of higher human activity, fragmented forests, or both, and that humans reduce the effective habitat of bonobos. The model results contribute to an increased understanding of threats to bonobo populations, as well as help identify priority areas for future surveys and determine core bonobo protection areas.


Bonobo Distribution Fragmentation Habitat Hunting IUCN/SSC A.P.E.S. database Pan paniscus