, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 551-581

Oil Palm Use by Adjacent Communities of Chimpanzees at Bossou and Nimba Mountains, West Africa

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Abstract

We investigated oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) use for feeding in 3 chimpanzee communities: Bossou and Seringbara in Guinea and Yealé in Côte d'Ivoire. Bossou was used as the benchmark for comparison. Bossou chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) exhibit a wide range of oil palm targeted behaviors. We used direct observations of their two tool use, i.e., nut-cracking and pestle pounding, to establish strict and reliable criteria to ascertain the presence of comparable behaviors at the two adjacent Nimba sites. Based on monthly surveys of oil palms across the three sites, significant differences in patterns of use emerged. Bossou chimpanzees demonstrated the greatest frequency of oil palm use, while Seringbara chimpanzees, 6 km away, failed to exhibit any use and Yealé chimpanzees, 12 km away, showed all uses comparable to Bossou chimpanzees except pestle pounding and mature leaf pith-feeding. We examined the density and distribution of oil palms, tool availability for nut-cracking and pestle pounding, fruit, flower and nut availability, competition with sympatric species for fruit and nuts and the diversity of fruit species in the diet across the 3 sites. We found no clear difference in proximate environmental variables underlying observed variations in oil palm use among the 3 sites, yielding the conclusion that the differences are cultural. Assuming individual interchange between communities and the involvement of social learning in the intracommunity transmission and maintenance of oil palm uses, the result raises interesting questions about diffusion of behavior between neighboring chimpanzee communities.