Advancing conservation planning for western chimpanzees using IUCN SSC A.P.E.S.—the case of a taxon-specific database

Image credit: Unsplash


Even though information on global biodiversity trends becomes increasingly available, large taxonomic and spatial data gaps persist at the scale relevant to planning conservation interventions. This is because data collectors are hesitant to share data with global repositories due to workload, lack of incentives, and perceived risk of losing intellectual property rights. In contrast, due to greater conceptual and methodological proximity, taxon-specific database initiatives can provide more direct benefits to data collectors through research collaborations and shared authorship. The IUCN SSC Ape Populations, Environments and Surveys (A.P.E.S.) database was created in 2005 as a repository for data on great apes and other primate taxa. It aims to acquire field survey data and make different types of data accessible, and provide up-to-date species status information. To support the current update of the conservation action plan for western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) we compiled field surveys for this taxon from IUCN SSC A.P.E.S., 75% of which were unpublished. We used spatial modeling to infer total population size, range-wide density distribution, population connectivity and landscape-scale metrics. We estimated a total abundance of 52 800 (95% CI 17 577–96 564) western chimpanzees, of which only 17% occurred in national parks. We also found that 10% of chimpanzees live within 25 km of four multi-national ‘development corridors’ currently planned for West Africa. These large infrastructure projects aim to promote economic integration and agriculture expansion, but are likely to cause further habitat loss and reduce population connectivity. We close by demonstrating the wealth of conservation-relevant information derivable from a taxon-specific database like IUCN SSC A.P.E.S. and propose that a network of many more such databases could be created to provide the essential information to conservation that can neither be supplied by one-off projects nor by global repositories, and thus are highly complementary to existing initiatives.

Environmental Research Letters
Erin G. Wessling
Erin G. Wessling
Postdoctoral Fellow

My research interests include distributed robotics, mobile computing and programmable matter.