Research Spotlight: Harmony Yersin

BCFS welcomes another Master’s student to the Waibira and Sonso communities: Harmony Yersin, from the University of Neuchâtel. Here is a description of her research:

“The effect of snare injuries on infant care and parasite infection in wild female chimpanzees”

In recent years, human population near habitats where wild chimpanzees live have been increasing. One consequence is the illegal setting of snares hidden in the forests to catch animals. The chimpanzees are not targeted by poachers, but they are sometimes accidentally caught in the snares. Most survive, but they will suffer lifelong consequences. It is estimated that one third of chimpanzees in Budongo Forest, Uganda, suffer from health problems due to snare injuries.

Various studies have already been conducted on the problem of snaring in Budongo Forest. In this study, I will focus on the relation between snare injuries and female reproductive success by focussing on three aspects that have received comparably little attention so far: (a) behavioural differences in infant care of snared and healthy mothers, (b) differences in intestinal parasite load of snared and healthy mothers and (c) predisposition of contracting human diseases.

Welcome Nathalie!

October 28, 2013

Welcome Nathalie!

Today we welcome a new student to BCFS. Nathalie Richi is currently conducting master’s research with Dr. Klaus Zuberbühler at Université Neuchâtel in Switzerland. Here is the topic of her thesis:

“Multi-modal communication in male wild chimpanzees, influence of the hierarchy”

For my Master’s Project, I’m looking at the multimodal system of communication between male chimpanzees. Potentially relevant factors within a wild community are the age, sex, and social rank of the signaller, as well as the complexity of the social interactions. I am interested to see if the hierarchy has an effect on the communication between males. My goal is to compare the uni- and multi-modal communication of different males, and the frequency of gestures or vocalizations. The prediction is that the use of different modes of communication will be dependant on their social position within the group.

Grooming hand clasp in Sonso?

A recent group of Earthwatch volunteers witnessed a rare behaviour in the Sonso Community: the grooming hand clasp. While chimpanzees at other field sites often hold hands in the air while they groom, the Sonso chimpanzees more regularly hold onto a branch, or leave their hands extended in the air. This difference between chimpanzee groups has been described as a cultural behaviour (Whiten et al. 2001).

Although this behaviour is not considered habitual in Sonso, it has been recorded roughly 4 times since the beginning of the project. This time, we were fortunate that Earthwatch volunteer Jonathan Hanna was present to capture this lovely photo of our two males Kwezi (left) and Pascal (right).

You are welcome!

October 20, 2013

You are welcome!

BCFS is pleased to welcome a new member of the Sonso community: Kaija, the son of Kwera. Kaija has three siblings in Sonso – Kwezi (male, 18), Karo (female, 11), and Karibu (female, 6). He appears to be both healthy and curious about his surroundings, exploring figs and leaves with his hands while he clings to Kwera’s belly with his feet. We wish him the best as he grows with us!

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