Primate Community Dynamics in Old Growth Forest over 23.5 Years at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda: Implications for Conservation and Census Methods

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Few data exist regarding long-term changes in primate populations in old-growth, tropical forests. In the absence of this information, it is unclear how to assess population trends efficiently and economically. We addressed these problems by conducting line-transect censuses 23.5 years apart at the Ngogo study area in Kibale National Park, Uganda. We conducted additional censuses over short time intervals to determine the degree to which the temporal distribution of censuses affected estimates of primate numbers. Results indicate that two species, blue monkeys and red colobus, may have experienced significant reductions over the past 23.5 years at Ngogo. In contrast, five other species, baboons, black-and-white colobus, chimpanzees, mangabeys, and red-tailed guenons, have not changed in relative abundance. Additional findings indicate that different observers may vary significantly in their estimates of sighting distances of animals during censuses, thus rendering the use of measures of absolute densities problematic. Moreover, censuses conducted over short periods produce biased estimates of primate numbers. These results provide guidelines for the use of line-transect censuses and underscore the importance of protecting large blocks of forests for primate conservation.

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