Ground night nesting in chimpanzees: new insights from central chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) in South-East Cameroon.
Some chimpanzee populations exhibit ground night nesting, which occurs in different habitat types, is driven by a variety of interconnected factors, and may reflect cultural or social differences. This has important implications for ape conservation management, given that accurate nest builder identification is required to estimate density, crucial in monitoring, and allows inferences about environmental and social factors that may have contributed to the transition from tree to ground sleeping in early hominins. We conducted a 24-month marked nest count survey in La Belgique, Cameroon, and recorded the occurrence of chimpanzee tree and ground night nests, temperature and rainfall, predator and large mammal abundance, human activities, nesting tree species, and Uapaca spp. consumption. Ground night nesting occurred at a rate of 3.47% (n = 1,008), with more in swamps, in the dry season and with increasing human activities. We found no influence of leopard/elephant presence, but a possible influence of lack of nesting trees. We suggest chimpanzees visit swamps in the dry season (low water levels) for relief from hunting pressure and to consume Uapaca spp. fruits. Ground nesting may be enabled due to high abundance of terrestrial herbaceous vegetation, and may be favoured for inconspicuousness and safety from gun hunters.