Researcher: Juan Lapuente
My main present research interests are chimpanzee behavior, culture, tool use and ecology, although I keep devoting an important portion of my research efforts to conservation and wildlife management.
Presently, I am responsible for the Comoé Conservation Research Project, that I started in October 2014. Chimpanzees in Comoé had never been studied before, and only a few general censuses had been carried out in the area. After 2007, they had never been found by any biomonitoring survey so the consultants suggested that they were extinct. After a preliminary phase of 6 months, we demonstrated that the chimpanzees were not only present but that there was a good viable population that we keep studying and working to preserve.
For my research I use both traditional methods such as transects, nest counts, the study of tool use with etho-archeological methods and new technologies that are providing a great amount of high quality data, such as camera trapping.
Presently, I study 3 chimpanzee groups in the area surrounding the Research Station Comoé with the support of Würzburg University, Barcelona Zoo Foundation and collaboration of Max Planck Institute. We are doing research on their group structure, behavior, ecology, genetics and we are analysing many different tool uses, including several new and unknown to science.
We cannot do good research without good conservation, so we collaborate with local managers of the park and share data and advice to improve the biomonitoring and conservation activities.
The savanna chimpanzees of Comoé have large home-ranges, like most savanna chimpanzees, therefore, protecting their habitats, we also preserve all the species linked to them, such as forest elephants, leopards, white naped mangabeys, golden cats and many others.
As part of my research applied to conservation, I also study the population status and distribution of elephants, hippopotamus, leopards and mangabeys within my study are.
COMOÉ CHIMPANZEE CONSERVATION PROJECT
The Western chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes verus is the second most threatened chimpanzee subspecies. In Ivory Coast, their numbers dropped by 90 % between 1990 and 2007.
The chimpanzees of Comoé, detected by some general censuses, were supposed to be extinct after the 3 last biomonitoring surveys failed to find any sign of them. In order to know if this was true, Juan Lapuente created the Comoé Chimpanzee Conservation Project in October 2014, with support of Prof. Linsenmair and Würzburg University. After 6 months of hard work, we found what could be the second largest population of chimpanzees in Ivory Coast, and probably the only one viable of savanna chimpanzees in the country.
As our project progress, we study not only distribution and status of chimpanzees in Comoé N. P., but also ecology and their behavioral adaptations to this especially rich and diverse environment. We have as a main focus of research the tool use behaviors, that are comprising some previously unknown to science.
We use a combination of traditional methods, such as transects, nest counts and etho-archaeological approach and new technologies, with use of camera traps and genetics.
Presently, the project is concentrating efforts in the 3 groups of chimpanzees that have their home-ranges around the Comoé NP Research Station. With support of Würzburg University, Barcelona Zoo Foundation and the collaboration of Max Planck Institute, we study their group structure, home-range boundaries, ecology and behavior.
The great wealth of data that we are collecting is producing many scientific results, but also provides importatnt conservation tools that we share with local managers of the park, OIPR.
Our main goal is to develop a sustainable long term project for research and conservation of these chimpanzees, including the prospection of future ecotourism in well planned and controlled conditions.