Chimpanzee Population Increases In Tofala Forest

The presence of many baby chimpanzees captured in camera traps in the Proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Lebialem Division indicates an increase in the chimpanzee population there, said Sebastien Linarz, a German PhD researcher.

By Bertrand Shancho Ndimuh

Linarz made the statement after completing the first phase of his PhD research at the ERuDeF Institute of Biodiversity and Non-Profit Studies (EIBiNS), Buea.

Under the technical supervision of Professor Joyce Kimbi, the German researcher together with his field supervisor, Asoh Bedwin, who doubles as EIBiNS’ Research Coordinator, spent six months in the Tofala and Mak-Betchou forest blocks in the Lebialem Highlands collecting data.

Bedwin and Linarz set up camera traps, carried out a day-to-day bio-monitoring of the apes in Tofala and Mak-Betchou recording various signs like feeding signs, nests and collecting hairs and dung samples for the genetical analysis.

“We were marveled by the images we saw in the camera traps we set. For the first time, an image of a Cross River gorilla was gotten on camera including different groups of chimpanzees both young and old as well as many with babies. Many other animals like duikers, some cat species, squirrels and Preuss monkey were captured. I also discovered that chimpanzees like moving on the tracks but gorillas avoid the track,” Linarz said.

Then that unforgettable day.

“It was Monday evening; we had just come back from hiking and were resting when all of a sudden we got chimpanzees coming down the mountain, probably to make sleeping nests close to our camp. We decided to go and look for them. When we reached the place, it was already dark. The light of our flashlights indicated our presence. Suddenly there was panic in the group. Chimpanzees were shouting all around us. They were so afraid, that they started to pee down the trees. While some of them climbed down and fled, others instead climbed up and hid in trees. We spotted one chimpanzee with the flashlight far up the tree. The next day we returned to the nest site and saw 10 nests, which we tagged to determine the decay rate,” the PhD student narrated.

With the supervision of Asoh, Linarz collected leaf samples from the nest and with the aid of a “liquid” also collected dung and hairs of gorillas and chimpanzees. The dung collected would be taken to Germany and analysed to determine the diet of the two primate species and their food composition while the hairs will be used to determine the genetic flow between the gorillas in the Proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and those of the Mak-Betchou Forest.

The leaves will also help to determine the various species of plants, which these two primates use to build their nests.

Linarz expressed utmost gratitude to the staff of ERuDeF and EIBiNS for the hospitality and high sense of professionalism exhibited during this phase of the research.

He said his desire to enroll into the EIBiNS Post-Graduate Research Programme in January 15, 2014 was to carry out a research on a “Comprehensive study of the ecology and behavior of Cross River Gorillas and Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzees in the Lebialem Highlands in Cameroon”.

ERuDeF CEO, Louis Nkembi, thanked Linarz for choosing ERuDeF to carry out his research.

He pledged the Institute’s total support for the project.