International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 881–894 | Cite as

Giving the Forest Eyes: The Benefits of Using Camera Traps to Study Unhabituated Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in Southeastern Senegal



Habituation has been the standard methodology used to study the natural history of great apes and other primates. Habituation has invaluable strengths, particularly in quantity and diversity of data collected, but along with these come substantial weaknesses, i.e., costs both in time and effort, health risks, and potential exposure of subjects to poaching. With new technologies, we are able to extend our studies beyond the limitations of habituation; camera traps are one technology that can be used to study unhabituated primate groups. In this study we used eight camera traps over the course of 2 yr (1542 camera trap days) to capture thousands of still images of West African savanna chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in the Falémé region of southeastern Senegal. Images corroborated behavioral observations from habituated chimpanzees at the Fongoli site, where researchers have observed nocturnal activity and cave use. The cameras also captured interspecies interactions at water sources during the dry season and allowed us to determine demographic composition and minimum community size. The photographs provide data on local fauna, including predators (Panthera pardus pardus, Panthera leo senegalesis, and Crocuta crocuta), potential prey, and competitor species (Papio papio, Cercopithecus aethiops, and Erythrocebus patas). As primate habitat across Africa is further threatened and human–wildlife conflict increases, camera trapping could be used as an essential conservation tool, expanding studies of primates without exacerbating potential threats to the species.


Conservation Ethics Great apes Habituation Photographs Remote cameras 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Graduate Program, Department of AnthropologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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