Gombe National Park
Gombe National Park is home to the iconic chimpanzee population first studied by Jane Goodall in 1960. By the early 1970s, Dr. Goodall had established systematic behavioral data collection protocols that continue to this day. In the 1990s, a second chimpanzee community was habituated and systematic data collection began on this community shortly thereafter. Today, Gombe is one of the few chimpanzee study sites where two neighboring communities are habituated and studied. This allows for detailed research on topics like female dispersal and intergroup encounters that are difficult at other study sites. Over the years, in addition to the rigorous behavioral data collection, researchers have established protocols to collect data on ranging, physiology, parasite load and genetics.
Dr. Kara Walker manages the Female Behavioral Development data collection team and corresponding database at Gombe National Park. This research team collects data on maturing female chimpanzees between the ages of eight and twenty years. This captures their transition from the juvenile period all the way through adolescence and into adulthood. During this window, many females will leave their community of birth to join a different community where they will reproduce.
Throughout Africa chimpanzees, bonobos and other primates are illegally captured in the wild to be sold as pets both domestically and abroad. When these animals are confiscated they are transferred to sanctuaries where they are rehabilitated and released into large enclosures to live out their lives. These safe havens are ideal locations to conduct behavioral and cognitive studies. Animals can be observed in natural settings and can voluntarily participate in non-invasive cognitive studies. Our group has worked at Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in Republic of Congo and at Lola ya Bonobo in Democratic Republic of Congo. Both sanctuaries house apes in mixed-age and -sex groups that range in large forested enclosures or islands.