From Forest to Farm: Systematic Review of Cultivar Feeding by Chimpanzees – Management Implications for Wildlife in Anthropogenic Landscapes
Kimberley J. Hockings, Matthew R. McLennanDOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033391
Crop-raiding is a major source of conflict between people and wildlife globally, impacting local livelihoods and impeding conservation. Conflict mitigation strategies that target problematic wildlife behaviours such as crop-raiding are notoriously difficult to develop for large-bodied, cognitively complex species. Many crop-raiders are generalist feeders. In more ecologically specialised species crop-type selection is not random and evidence-based management requires a good understanding of species' ecology and crop feeding habits. Comprehensive species-wide studies of crop consumption by endangered wildlife are lacking but are important for managing human–wildlife conflict. We conducted a comprehensive literature search of crop feeding records by wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), a ripe-fruit specialist. We assessed quantitatively patterns of crop selection in relation to species-specific feeding behaviour, agricultural exposure, and crop availability. Crop consumption by chimpanzees is widespread in tropical Africa. Chimpanzees were recorded to eat a considerable range of cultivars (51 plant parts from 36 species). Crop part selection reflected a species-typical preference for fruit. Crops widely distributed in chimpanzee range countries were eaten at more sites than sparsely distributed crops. We identified ‘high’ and ‘low’ conflict crops according to their attractiveness to chimpanzees, taking account of their importance as cash crops and/or staple foods to people. Most (86%) high conflict crops were fruits, compared to 13% of low conflict crops. Some widely farmed cash or staple crops were seldom or never eaten by chimpanzees. Information about which crops are most frequently consumed and which are ignored has enormous potential for aiding on-the-ground stakeholders (i.e. farmers, wildlife managers, and conservation and agricultural extension practitioners) develop sustainable wildlife management schemes for ecologically specialised and protected species in anthropogenic habitats. However, the economic and subsistence needs of local people, and the crop-raiding behaviour of sympatric wildlife, must be considered when assessing suitability of particular crops for conflict prevention and mitigation.