Centre de Recherche de Primatologie Simenti
Since April 2007, the German Primate Center (DPZ) is operating a field station in the Senegal, West-Africa. The site is located in the Parc National de Niokolo Koba (PNNK). Research activities focus on a group of Guinea baboons comprising more than 300 individuals. Their home range spans about 25 km² and several individuals are fitted with radio or GPS collars.
Our aims are to understand the ecology of Guinea baboons and to analyse their social organisation, mating patterns and social relationships. Moreover, we aim to characterize their communicative behavior.
Together with the Senegalese field assistants, we conduct full and half day follows. We combine behavioural observations, analysis of ranging patterns using GPS data, population genetics, acoustic analyses and phenological data to examine the relation among ecology, social system and vocal behaviour. A specific focus is on the seasonal changes in ecology and social organisation. In addition, we study the vocal behaviour of the green monkeys. Within a comparative framework, our goal is to identify the selective pressures and constraints that shape primate social and vocal behaviour. We are particularly interested in uncovering the cognitive underpinnings of life in a complex social system and how the vocal communication is used to coordinate group movement.
Niokolo Koba National Park
The Niokolo Koba National Park is situated in southeastern Senegal. With a size of more than 9000 km² it is one of the largest national parks of West Africa. Founded in 1954, it was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981, and was added to the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2007. The average annual rainfall is 1000-1100mm and is mostly concentrated in the rainy season from July till October. The park is located at the centre of the north-south range of the Guinea baboons. Vegetation varies from a southern Sudanian to Guinean type with predominant savannah, more luxuriant vegetation along the courses of the rivers and a varying cover of trees and bushes. This vegetation changes its character according to topography and soils. Approximately 350 different bird species, about 80 mammals as well as 5-6 primate species can be found in the park. In addition to Guinea baboons, the park hosts chimpanzees, green monkeys, patas monkeys, Temminck’s colobus monkeys as well as Galagos.
Baboons are one of the most important models for understanding the evolution of primate social systems. From their presumed origin in southern Africa, baboons advanced to the north during the pleistocene. Guinea baboons (Papio papio) constitute the western extreme of the baboon dispersal. They live in savannahs and gallery forests of West-Africa. Group sizes vary from about 10 to 300 individuals. They presumably live in multi-male multi-female groups which are composed of several smaller units that split and meet again several times during the day (fission-fusion). In comparison to other Papio-taxa relationships among males seem to be exceptionally relaxed. In contrast to other baboon species whose social and vocal behaviour has been extensively studied, however, the social system and vocal communication of Guinea baboons is only poorly understood.
Cooperation Partners in Senegal
The project is supported by the National Park Administration (Diréction des Parcs Nationaux, DPN) as well as the Department of the Environment (Ministère de l´Environnement et de la Protéction de la Nature de la République du Sénégal, MEPN). Moreover, we cooperate with the Université Cheikh Anta Diop as well as with the École Inter-États des Sciences et Médecine Vétérinaires (EISMV; both in Dakar).