Navigating Anthropogenic Landscapes: Behavioural Adaptations by Great Apes in Disturbed Habitats




Gilbert, Miranda

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Industrial expansion has brought humans and wildlife into closer contact, and increased conflict. The great apes (chimpanzee, orangutan, gorilla, bonobo), the closest extant relatives to humans, have experienced substantial population declines as a result of anthropogenic activities. However, the effects of human activity on ape behavioural ecology have been minimally considered. Using the literature review method, I address the question: how is human activity influencing great ape behaviour in anthropogenic landscapes? I found that the strongest drivers of documented behaviour change were croplands, signs of human activity, and logging. The most frequently documented adaptations to these activities were crop raiding, changing nesting practices, and biassed and fragmented range use. Analysis of human-primate relationships showed that some adaptations like crop raiding are worsening relationships between people and primates, resulting in the trapping and harassment of wild apes. Interestingly, regions where apes and humans had previously maintained a positive or neutral relationship were found to be experiencing shifts towards negative relationships. This invites investigation into tolerance thresholds for behaviour change in sympatric species, and timely mitigation strategies. This research provides a big picture of how human activities and ape behavioural ecology interact and demonstrates that the inclusion of human perspectives is critical to developing locally supported, holistic conservation strategies.



primates, primatology, anthropocene, behavioural ecology, anthropology