Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) flexibly use introduced species for nesting and bark feeding in a human-dominated habitat.
As habitat loss and fragmentation place growing pressure on endangered nonhuman primate populations, researchers find increasing evidence for novel responses in behavior. In western Uganda between the Budongo and Bugoma Forests, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) inhabit a mosaic landscape comprising forest fragments, human settlements, and agricultural land. We recorded nests and feeding evidence of unhabituated chimpanzees in this region over a 12-mo period. We found extensive evidence of nesting in introduced tree species, including eucalyptus (Eucalyptus grandis), guava (Psidium guajava), cocoa (Theobroma cacao), and Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea). In addition, we found instances of ground nesting, nest reuse, and composite nests constructed from branches of multiple trees. This evidence may indicate a lack of suitable nesting trees or attempts by chimpanzees to nest in areas of riparian forest that allow them to avoid human detection. We also found new evidence for eucalyptus bark feeding by chimpanzees. Such evidence suggests chimpanzees respond flexibly to mitigate anthropogenic pressures in human-dominated landscapes. The limits of such flexibility remain unknown. Further research is needed to examine systematically the factors influencing the use of such resources and to understand better the extent to which chimpanzees can persist while relying on them.