|Countries||Congo, Cameroon, Central African Republic|
|Date||11 Oct 2011|
Throughout central Africa, populations of forest mammals are decreasing while much information on these mammals is still lacking. Natural forest clearings (bais) offer a unique opportunity to observe animals, but at the same time are easy hunting grounds for poachers. Large and mostly endangered mammals like the African forest elephant (Loxodonta a. cyclotis), the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla g. gorilla) and the bongo antelope (Tragelaphus eurycerus) are attracted to clearings despite risks such as increased predation and poaching as well as transmission of diseases and parasites. Protecting these key areas is therefore of substantial importance for the forest mammals’ conservation.
The present project will study 19 natural forest clearings in the Trinational de la Sangha protected areas complex, Central Africa, in respect of different resources they provide to mammals with a focus on the African forest elephant and the western lowland gorilla. At each bai general ecological data will be collected as well as samples of water, soil and plants consumed by large mammals versus non-consumed. Nutritional analysis of the samples will provide valuable information on the animals nutritional needs. Resulting information on different factors influencing visiting rates of large mammals at bais will help to identify priority sites for conservation and provide valuable arguments for the bais’ protection in the long-term.
The potential of camera traps as cost and time efficient bai-monitoring tools even in remote areas will be evaluated. Camera traps working 24 hours a day will be set up around 8 bais once in the dry and wet season. They will provide information on the diversity of small, rare and nocturnal mammals visiting bais and will thus increase knowledge even on some poorly understood species. Furthermore, camera traps will allow valuable insight into night and day visitation patterns of large mammals such as the forest elephant, which is needed in order to approve density estimates obtained through bai monitoring.
Capacity building will be assured by training local assistants in data collection and proper use of equipment. Standardized sampling protocols will be elaborated and distributed as well as a photo guide for bai feeding plant species.
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