Omeja P.A.,Makerere University |
Obua J.,Makerere University |
Rwetsiba A.,Uganda Wildlife Authority |
Chapman C.A.,Makerere University |
And 2 more authors.
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2012
Large areas of tropical forests have been converted to agricultural land and subsequently abandoned. If restoration can occur on these abandoned lands, it offers great potential for biodiversity recovery, carbon sequestration, and enhanced ecosystem services. To understand the interaction between different forms of anthropogenic degradation and restoration strategies we examined biomass accumulation at two different scales. First, using small scale comparisons where the tree species pool, climate, and dispersers were similar, we quantified regeneration in degraded sites in Kibale National Park, Uganda subjected to different restoration strategies. Second, we contrasted biomass accumulation for 57 tropical studies where the nature and time since disturbance differed. The above ground biomass of 10-32. year old forest in Kibale ranged from 15,675 to 34,294. kg/ha and was a function of the type of the management strategy used to promote regeneration. The above ground biomass accumulation from other tropical sites ranged extensively; from 470. kg/ha in an 8. year old abandoned pasture in Brazil to 272,000. kg/ha in a 16. year old abandoned agricultural field in Mexico. Overall, the time since abandonment was a good predictor of biomass accumulation. This review demonstrates that once left to regenerate, secondary forests accumulate above ground biomass in a very positive manner; however, the speed of biomass accumulation can be facilitated by site-specific restoration strategies. Both the cost and efficiency of different restoration strategies vary dramatically and our research in Kibale suggests that making larger financial investments does not necessarily result in more positive biomass accumulation. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.
Cibot M.,CNRS Eco-anthropology and Ethnobiology |
Cibot M.,CNRS Mechanical Adaptation and Evolution |
Cibot M.,Sebitoli Research Station |
Guillot J.,Dynamyc research group EnvA UPEC |
And 5 more authors.
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases | Year: 2015
Background: Nodular Oesophagostomum genus nematodes are a major public health concern in some African regions because they can be lethal to humans. Their relatively high prevalence in people has been described in Uganda recently. While non-human primates also harbor Oesophagostomum spp., the epidemiology of this oesophagostomosis and the role of these animals as reservoirs of the infection in Eastern Africa are not yet well documented. Methodology/Principal Findings: The present study aimed to investigate Oesophagostomum infection in terms of parasite species diversity, prevalence and load in three non-human primates (Pan troglodytes, Papio anubis, Colobus guereza) and humans living in close proximity in a forested area of Sebitoli, Kibale National Park (KNP), Uganda. The molecular phylogenetic analyses provided the first evidence that humans living in the Sebitoli area harbored O. stephanostomum, a common species in free-ranging chimpanzees. Chimpanzees were also infected by O. bifurcum, a common species described in human populations throughout Africa. The recently described Oesophagostomum sp. found in colobine monkeys and humans and which was absent from baboons in the neighboring site of Kanyawara in KNP (10 km from Sebitoli), was only found in baboons. Microscopic analyses revealed that the infection prevalence and parasite load in chimpanzees were significantly lower in Kanyawara than in Sebitoli, an area more impacted by human activities at its borders. Conclusions/Significance: Three different Oesophagostomum species circulate in humans and non-human primates in the Sebitoli area and our results confirm the presence of a new genotype of Oesophagostomum recently described in Uganda. The high spatiotemporal overlap between humans and chimpanzees in the studied area coupled with the high infection prevalence among chimpanzees represent factors that could increase the risk of transmission for O. stephanostomum between the two primate species. Finally, the importance of local-scale research for zoonosis risk management is important because environmental disturbance and species contact can differ, leading to different parasitological profiles between sites that are close together within the same forest patches. © 2015 Cibot et al.
Krief S.,CNRS Eco-anthropology and Ethnobiology |
Krief J..-M.,Projet pour la conservation des grands singes PCGS |
Seguya A.,Uganda Wildlife Authority |
Couly G.,University of Paris Descartes |
And 2 more authors.
Journal of Medical Primatology | Year: 2014
At least 10% of the Sebitoli chimpanzee community of the Kibale National Park (Uganda) present a characteristic facial phenotype with flattened nose, reduced nostrils, and concave mid-face. Affected individuals do not present skin lesions, and also young infants are affected. We suggest, therefore, a congenital origin of this defect. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Omeja P.A.,Makerere University |
Chapman C.A.,Makerere University |
Chapman C.A.,McGill University |
Chapman C.A.,Wildlife Conservation Society |
And 5 more authors.
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2011
The extensive area of degraded tropical land and the calls to conserve forest biodiversity and sequester carbon to offset climate change demonstrate the need to restore forest in the tropics. Deforested land is sometimes replanted with fast-growing trees; however, the consequences of intensive replanting on biomass accumulation or plant and animal diversity are poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to determine how intensive replanting affected tropical forest regeneration and biomass accumulation over ten years. We studied reforested sites in Kibale National Park, Uganda, that were degraded in the 1970s and replanted with five native tree species in 1995. We identified and measured the size of planted versus naturally regenerating trees, and felled and weighed matched trees outside the park to calculate region-specific allometric equations for above-ground tree biomass. The role of shrubs and grasses in facilitating or hindering the establishment of trees was evaluated by correlating observed estimates of percent cover to tree biomass. We found 39 tree species naturally regenerating in the restored area in addition to the five originally planted species. Biomass was much higher for planted (15,675. kg/ha) than naturally regenerated trees (4560. kg/ha), but naturally regenerating tree regrowth was an important element of the landscape. The establishment of tree seedlings initially appeared to be facilitated by shrubs, primarily Acanthus pubescens and the invasive Lantana camara; however, both are expected to hinder tree recruitment in the long-term. Large and small-seeded tree species were found in the replanted area, indicating that bird and mammal dispersers contributed to natural forest restoration. These results demonstrate that intensive replanting can accelerate the natural accumulation of biomass and biodiversity and facilitate the restoration of tropical forest communities. However, the long-term financial costs and ecological benefits of planting and maintaining reforested areas need to be weighed against other potential restoration strategies. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
Krief S.,CNRS Eco-anthropology and Ethnobiology |
Cibot M.,CNRS Eco-anthropology and Ethnobiology |
Cibot M.,CNRS Mechanical Adaptation and Evolution |
Bortolamiol S.,CNRS Eco-anthropology and Ethnobiology |
And 4 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014
In a rapidly changing landscape highly impacted by anthropogenic activities, the great apes are facing new challenges to coexist with humans. For chimpanzee communities inhabiting encroached territories, not bordered by rival conspecifics but by human agricultural fields, such boundaries are risky areas. To investigate the hypothesis that they use specific strategies for incursions out of the forest into maize fields to prevent the risk of detection by humans guarding their field, we carried out video recordings of chimpanzees at the edge of the forest bordered by a maize plantation in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Contrary to our expectations, large parties are engaged in crop-raids, including vulnerable individuals such as females with clinging infants. More surprisingly chimpanzees were crop-raiding during the night. They also stayed longer in the maize field and presented few signs of vigilance and anxiety during these nocturnal crop-raids. While nocturnal activities of chimpanzees have been reported during full moon periods, this is the first record of frequent and repeated nocturnal activities after twilight, in darkness. Habitat destruction may have promoted behavioural adjustments such as nocturnal exploitation of open croplands. Copyright: © 2014 Krief et al.
PubMed | CNRS Eco-anthropology and Ethnobiology, Uganda Wildlife Authority and National Veterinary School of Alfort
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PLoS neglected tropical diseases | Year: 2015
Nodular Oesophagostomum genus nematodes are a major public health concern in some African regions because they can be lethal to humans. Their relatively high prevalence in people has been described in Uganda recently. While non-human primates also harbor Oesophagostomum spp., the epidemiology of this oesophagostomosis and the role of these animals as reservoirs of the infection in Eastern Africa are not yet well documented.The present study aimed to investigate Oesophagostomum infection in terms of parasite species diversity, prevalence and load in three non-human primates (Pan troglodytes, Papio anubis, Colobus guereza) and humans living in close proximity in a forested area of Sebitoli, Kibale National Park (KNP), Uganda. The molecular phylogenetic analyses provided the first evidence that humans living in the Sebitoli area harbored O. stephanostomum, a common species in free-ranging chimpanzees. Chimpanzees were also infected by O. bifurcum, a common species described in human populations throughout Africa. The recently described Oesophagostomum sp. found in colobine monkeys and humans and which was absent from baboons in the neighboring site of Kanyawara in KNP (10 km from Sebitoli), was only found in baboons. Microscopic analyses revealed that the infection prevalence and parasite load in chimpanzees were significantly lower in Kanyawara than in Sebitoli, an area more impacted by human activities at its borders.Three different Oesophagostomum species circulate in humans and non-human primates in the Sebitoli area and our results confirm the presence of a new genotype of Oesophagostomum recently described in Uganda. The high spatiotemporal overlap between humans and chimpanzees in the studied area coupled with the high infection prevalence among chimpanzees represent factors that could increase the risk of transmission for O. stephanostomum between the two primate species. Finally, the importance of local-scale research for zoonosis risk management is important because environmental disturbance and species contact can differ, leading to different parasitological profiles between sites that are close together within the same forest patches.
News Article | February 17, 2017
When people are asked about Africa, most imagine about the mud houses, the jungles, and the wild animals. What many do not know is that, like all other continents, Africa also has its share of historic monuments, art centers, cities, and other landmarks. In fact, from the lovely scenic mountains located in the south to the exotic beaches of the west and the amazing parks of the east, African regions contain some of the most captivating views in the world. To give a peak at what the African regions truly look and bust some of the myths floating about the continent, Google has added three more African countries to its Street View application. The announcement of the latest additions was through the company's blog on Feb. 10. With the latest addition, Google's Street view now adds up to 81 countries across the globe with seven in Africa. With Street View optimized for mobile in August and providing Daydream VR support in November, users can explore the new locations from any smart device and not just the laptop/PC. People can virtually tour some of the best cities, iconic landmarks, and ancient monuments in Senegal, Ghana, and Uganda. We have listed some of them as below: The bronze monument, which was unveiled in the presence of 19 African heads of state in 2010, is located outside of Dakar, a city along the western coast of Country on the Atlantic Ocean. This Lake is renowned for its pink waters This village is located atop stilts over Lake Tadane in Ghana and was named a world heritage site in 2000 Home to the three resident companies of the National Symphony Orchestra, National Dance Company, and the National Theatre Players, Ghana's National theatre is for those who have eyes for cultural entertainment. With many African parks getting into endangered list, the National Parks of Uganda, including the Queen Elizabeth National Park, is home to a number of endangered species. Google Partnered up with the Uganda Wildlife Authority to bring some of the best images from the most amazing and iconic National Parks. With a huge collection of birds including Cape Parrot and a variety of wildlife, these are simply fantastic views for wildlife lovers. The latest additions to Google Street View would be a boon to those users who wanted to explore the different parts of the continent-especially those who never had the means to explore the places physically. While it may not be the real thing, the virtual reality version is still something better. Well, it is nice to see Google supporting the Street views with new locations and bringing in innovative experiences. So start exploring these ones now! © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | October 1, 2016
Enrico Di Minin, research fellow in conservation science at the University of Helsinki, and Douglas MacMillan, professor of biodiversity economics at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent. The 1989 UN ban on international ivory trading was supposed to protect elephants. The result has been counterproductive because restricting supply in a time of increasing wealth in Asia has driven up prices, dramatically increasing incentives and rewards for poachers. Since 2008, large-scale elephant poaching has restarted, driven by high prices in Asia. The trade ban is part of a prohibitionist approach that focuses on enhancing law enforcement, while constricting supply by confiscating and destroying ivory. But some of Africa’s biggest range states – Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – support a legal trade. The 2009 one-off commercial sale of 102 tonnes of stockpiled ivory generated more than $15m that benefitted elephant conservation and local communities. Further such sales were then banned until 2017. Advocates of the prohibitionist approach argue that this one-off sale has led to increased demand for ivory in Asia and, consequently, stimulated poaching levels in Africa. There is no evidence to support this claim (pdf) despite numerous assertions by animal welfare groups. Rather, the restrictions under which this one-off sale was permitted might have triggered large-scale poaching of elephants. Market speculators, who probably started investing in raw ivory during the global financial crisis, started stockpiling in anticipation the black-market price would increase because of scarcity during the sale moratorium. Indeed, the black market price of ivory skyrocketed between 2008 and 2014. In pure economic terms, limiting the supply of ivory can have negative consequences for elephant conservation. Supply reduction, by burning ivory stockpiles and implementing sale moratoria when demand for ivory remains unchanged, can drive prices up and escalate elephant poaching. As the market is controlled by criminals and investors who have no interest in conservation and are influenced primarily by price, elephant poaching can be predicted to increase. Despite recent investment in demand reduction in Asia, it is unlikely demand will be driven to zero within the short time frame required to save the species from extinction in the wild. A more practical approach would be to combine demand reduction campaigns with a legal and regulated supply of ivory, which would keep the price of ivory from rising higher and reduce the incentives for gangs to kill elephants. If this doesn’t happen then African countries might choose to withdraw their participation from Cites and decide for themselves what to do with their elephants and other species. Dr Nitin Sekar, science policy fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Professor Solomon Hsiang, associate professor of public policy at UC Berkeley Whether or not legal sales of otherwise illegal products will undercut harmful black markets is a classic question in economics. It seems to have worked when the US repealed the prohibition of alcohol and legal booze flooded markets previously dominated by bootleggers. It’s less clear whether it is working in places that have experimented with legalising marijuana or prostitution. Will it work for ivory? This question pits two sets of economic theories against each other. In the standard economic model, the best way to prevent poaching is to establish a market for the ivory collected from elephants that have died naturally. Alternatively, in a dynamic economic model where demand and supply can change in response to legalisation, poaching may be worsened by legal ivory trade. This can happen in two ways. First, the conspicuous trade of legal ivory could draw new consumers. Individuals seeing ivory promotions on TV or their peers making purchases may become more interested in buying some themselves. But this growing demand might not be satisfied by the legal supply, incentivising more poaching. Second, with more legal ivory in circulation, it becomes tougher for authorities to distinguish legal from illegal ivory, reducing the risk of detection for illegal traders. This makes it possible for illegal traders to supply more illegal ivory. Which of these economic theories is correct? In most black markets, this is a challenging question as they are almost impossible to observe. But thanks to Cites, we have data stretching back to 2003 that provides a window into the shadowy illegal ivory trade. At 79 large sites in 40 countries across Africa and Asia, Cites collects data on how many elephants are poached and how many died naturally. In a recent analysis, we used these data to see which economic model is right. Using the Cites global poaching data, we examined whether the “one-time legal sale” of ivory to China and Japan caused changes in global markets for poached ivory. What we found surprised us: the sale announcement corresponded with an abrupt, global and lasting 65% increase in poaching. These findings are further supported by reports on the ground. With the new influx of legal ivory, the Chinese government promoted the product, the Chinese media trumpeted the investment value of ivory, and a Chinese periodical noted that the one-time sale “stimulated new consumption instead of slowing down illegal ivory trades”. A secondary market for legal ivory permits has emerged to help launder illegal ivory. We tested many alternatives to the “dynamic” theories, but none of them could explain the dramatic 2008 increase in poaching. For instance, there was no greater Chinese investment in valuable raw commodities (such as gold) due to the financial crisis. As far as we can tell, the legal sale and the persisting legal markets caused elephant poaching rates to rise and stay high. We can’t know all the intricacies of the ivory black market, but the evidence suggests that the legal sale of ivory in 2008 led to more poaching, not less. Bans are imperfect, but they’ve worked in western markets. With presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping’s recent promises to enact “nearly complete bans” on trade in ivory, combined with data-driven demand reduction campaigns and law enforcement efforts, there is an unprecedented opportunity to try andto make them work in the east as well. Rowan Martin, Zimbabwe delegate to the Cites meeting in Johannesburg Ivory has been part of Africa’s wealth for centuries, and the colonial powers of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries went to war with each other in the attempt to gain control of it. No decree from these same powers banning ivory trade is likely to resonate with the African owners of the resource today. And quite rightly. In a developmental context there can be no balance of trade if Africa needs to import all the specialised products manufactured by overseas countries but, in turn, is restricted by a cartel of overseas NGOs from exporting the specialised products that give it a global competitive advantage. What will keep elephants on the land in Africa? At the outset, the Malthusian problem needs to be recognised. Some 855 million people live in the countries making up the elephant range in Africa, of which 546 million live in the rural areas. Elephants generally cannot co-exist with people when the human population density exceeds 20/km2. This density has been exceeded in 21 of the 37 countries in the range. As a result, the elephant range in Africa has shrunk by 41% since 1995. However, far from being alarmed at their present status, we should be pleasantly surprised at how well elephants are surviving among a burgeoning human population. This year, southern Africa will experience an environmental disaster of extraordinary magnitude. Millions of people will be without food and water before the end of the year. Unless southern Africa can find higher-valued land uses than the present subsistence agriculture and marginal livestock husbandry, disaster appears inevitable. Those preoccupied with Cites trade bans do not see this bigger picture. The incentives needed to ensure a future for elephants outside state protected areas are, first, a full devolution of authority to those on whose lands elephants live to enable them manage the elephants to their own long-term advantage. Second, for the state to actively promote a high value for elephants and remove all restrictive legislation and bureaucracy that creates perverse incentives. An annual budget of $1.5m is required to protect 5,000 elephants in a national park of 10,000km2, which can easily be met from the trade in ivory produced from natural mortality and a low level of problem animal control. Cites has had 27 years to assess the efficacy of the ivory trade ban and it is clear to any impartial observer that it has not worked. Dr Andrew Seguya, executive director, Uganda Wildlife Authority and member of the African Elephant Coalition who have put forward a proposal that would strengthen the ivory ban Once again, elephants face a threat to their survival from the ivory trade. Results released by the Great Elephant Census confirm that around 144,000 savannah elephants – 30% of the continental population – were lost between 2007-14. There is a clear answer to this crisis: ban the ivory trade. This would break the chain linking legal and illegal markets, eliminate demand and stop the killing. An earlier total ban by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) parties in 1989 put African elephants on the most protected Appendix I. Ivory markets crashed, prices dropped and poaching stopped almost overnight. Yet in 1997, parties weakened the ban by “split-listing” some elephants on the less-restrictive Appendix II, contradicting the convention’s own rules. At the insistence of four southern African countries – Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – Cites agreed to experimental ivory sales from their stockpiles. The largest of these sales to Japan and China in 2008 provoked a dramatic acceleration in elephant poaching across Africa (pdf). The main beneficiaries have been ivory poachers, smugglers and traders. Nevertheless, some libertarian economists continue to argue for ivory sales. Such arguments assume there are simple market solutions to all the world’s problems and that wild animals and their body parts should be treated like agricultural commodities. Perhaps these economists also live in ivory towers, oblivious to the real world where criminal syndicates operate as multi-product firms in complex markets. The tide is turning: China, Hong Kong and the US have already pledged to close their major markets. Since 2011, 21 countries have destroyed about 20% of the world’s stockpiled ivory at public events, sensitising people to the threat from poaching and ivory smuggling, and the determination of Cites parties to end it. Through its members, the African Elephant Coalition of 29 countries has submitted a proposal to Cites CoP17 [the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties], which meets in South Africa this week, to remove ambiguity by putting elephants from southern Africa back on Appendix I. Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe have submitted counter proposals to resume ivory trading, with Botswana now a notable exception in southern Africa. These proposals are likely to be rejected by an overwhelming majority of Cites parties, but some governments, NGOs and the European commission seek a diplomatic “solution” by getting all the proposals withdrawn and maintaining the unsatisfactory status quo. A legal ivory trade cannot save elephants, now or ever. As the saying goes: “Ivory belongs on elephants; in national heritage, not in markets or ornaments.” For the next year the Guardian will be running a year-long focus on the plight of elephants; get in touch with your stories here, and read more of our coverage here.
News Article | December 13, 2016
Oakland Zoo, with conservation partner UCP (Uganda Carnivore Program), is co-hosting the first-ever Lion Day tomorrow in the town on Muhoyka, Uganda. The specific location for the event is called "Leopard Village" and is a community-run tourism site near Queen Elizabeth National Park, was developed by local villagers in cooperation with the Uganda Carnivore Program. Uganda’s first Lion Day is a public event and open to all, organized to celebrate local culture and educating people about the endangered African Lion. Festivities will include learning about lions and lion conservation, games, music, dancing and other activities that celebrate all things lion. All local residents, lodge and safari operators, tourists, local businesses, other NGOs, and Uganda Wildlife Authority staff are invited to join in the festivities. The effort to save lions, Africa’s apex predator, could not be more important. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) just released known numbers of lions, which shows a 43% reduction from their population over the last 21 years. The most likely contributors to the decline are the killing of lions in defense of human life and livestock, habitat loss, poaching and the bushmeat trade. According to Dr. Ludwig Siefert, team leader of the Uganda Carnivore Program, “Lions will only survive if their needs and the needs of the neighboring communities are balanced. Lion Day will increase awareness and appreciation of both.” This is the second ‘hands on’ collaboration with UCP in the name of conservation for Oakland Zoo. Last year, Oakland Zoo veterinarian, Dr. Andrea Goodnight, traveled to Uganda in an effort to assist the UCP in their daily conservation activities, while also conducting a study to evaluate stress hormone levels in African lions in the park. (Read Dr. Goodnight’s blog on the experience) “We are really looking forward to celebrating Uganda’s first ever Lion Day! Lions are such an important part of Uganda’s cultural heritage and tourism economy and taking a day to appreciate this is long overdue. We wanted to get together to celebrate with the people who live the closest to lions and what better location than in a village near Queen Elizabeth National Park. We are especially excited to have our friends from the Oakland Zoo with us on this day, since Oakland Zoo have done so much to support the people, lions and other wildlife of Uganda,” said Monica Tyler, Director of the Uganda Carnivore Program. “Humans and wildlife are tightly linked on our planet - the well-being of one often depends on the well-being of the other. It is a great honor of Oakland Zoo to cooperatively create a day in which we celebrate the majestic African Lion and the wonderful community around Queen Elizabeth Park. Their willingness to live in peace with all animals inspires us all the way on the other side of the world, and that is something to celebrate!,” said Amy Gotliffe, Oakland Zoo’s Conservation Director. Event Location Directions: Leopard Village is located just outside of Muhokya, which is the first town as you drive from Kasese towards Queen Elizabeth on the Kasese-Mbarara highway. It is situated on the lower side of Muhokya Trading Centre, on the park side of the road, and adjacent to Muhokya Primary School and Muhokya Catholic Church. About the UCP (Uganda Carnivore Program): The Uganda Carnivore Program (UCP) is a multi-disciplinary organization devoted to the research and conservation of Uganda’s large carnivores, including lions, leopards, and hyenas. UCP’s primary focuses are scientific research and monitoring, and community-based conservation programs. UCP provides community outreach regarding human-wildlife conflict, education outreach in village schools, and assistance with sustainable community economic development via participation in ecotourism. Oakland Zoo has been a partner with UCP since 2008. http://www.uganda-carnivores.org/ About Leopard Village: “Leopard Village” is a community-run socio-economic development initiative which supports cultural and wildlife conservation through ecotourism near Queen Elizabeth National Park. Multiple villages participate in the initiative, with the assistance of the Uganda Carnivore Program. The goals of Leopard Village are to assist in the conservation of the area’s wildlife and support local people as they regain their traditional custodianship of the local wildlife and other natural resources. Participating villagers receive some economic benefit to help offset the costs associated with living with large carnivores, which prey on livestock. Leopard Village also educates tourists about Uganda’s conservation challenges and rich cultural traditions. About Oakland Zoo: The Bay Area’s award-winning Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 native and exotic animals. The Zoo offers many educational programs and kid’s activities perfect for science field trips, family day trips and exciting birthday parties. Nestled in the Oakland Hills, in 525-acre Knowland Park, the Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, off Highway 580. The East Bay Zoological Society (Oakland Zoo) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization supported in part by members, contributions, the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks. For more information please visit our website at http://www.oaklandzoo.org.
News Article | March 14, 2016
They live across central and southern Africa in family groups of up to 28. Individuals routinely feed and protect the offspring of other group members, and when one of their own is threatened they gang up together to defend against attack from predators or a rival team of mongooses. But life is not all friendly cuddles between team-mates. Recent research shows these animals have a dark side. In the latest study of these mongooses, published recently in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers from the University of Exeter, Liverpool John Moores University and I show how competition between relatives can lead to mass evictions. The drama ensues when the presence of greater numbers of offspring and younger siblings compromise the productivity – breeding success – of senior group members. Over a period of days, the happy family's territory then becomes a chaotic battleground between relatives. The conflict is ultimately resolved by the older, dominant individuals evicting their younger team-mates en-masse. Shrieking battle cries accompany the civil war, with mothers and fathers chasing and wrestling their own daughters and sons, and elder brothers and sisters attacking their younger siblings. The tension is palpable, and the wounds can be bloody as well as psychological. The evictees do not want to leave and try to hang on in there, before surrendering and fleeing after days of sustained persecution. Eviction is not the only behaviour used to alleviate reproductive competition within groups of banded mongoose. Infanticide has been recorded, with adults killing the pups of fellow group-members, and there is also evidence that a female may abort gestating young during periods of stress, and that to do so increases the chance that she is not herself evicted. We must take care not to judge such behaviour within a human context, however. Eviction, infanticide and abortion may appear callous, but ultimately those mongooses that are evicted will usually go on to disperse successfully and found new groups with a refreshed gene pool (thanks to reduced inbreeding). This latest study shows the value of long-term research and collaboration. When I first arrived in Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National Park back in 1996, to investigate these mongooses as part of a partnership between the University of Cambridge and the Uganda Wildlife Authority, I never imagined that these same mongooses would continue to be monitored by researchers over the subsequent two decades. We are now at a stage where today's field researchers are following the great, great, great, great, great … offspring of the original group members. Such studies, monitoring the life history of multiple generations of individuals within populations, provide a remarkable insight into the evolutionary ecology of species, and tell us a great deal about how and why animals behave the way that they do. I have spent much of my life as a behavioural ecologist studying cooperative animals, including banded mongooses but also chimpanzees, grey mouse lemurs, and even social spiders. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of these societies is that while we observe cooperation on the outside, closer inspection often reveals that such apparent friendly helpfulness is underpinned by conflict and the threat of aggression. Sometimes your best friend can turn out to be your worst enemy. Explore further: Suffering warthogs seek out nit-picking mongooses for relief More information: Faye J. Thompson et al. Reproductive competition triggers mass eviction in cooperative banded mongooses, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2016). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2607