Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve
- Western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) are present in Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve.
- There is an ongoing study to determine the chimpanzee population size (Koops et al. in prep.).
- The chimpanzee population trend is unknown.
- This site has a total size of 125 km².
- Key threats to chimpanzees are iron ore mining, poaching and habitat encroachment.
- Conservation activities have focused on improving tri-national coordination and capacity building for local communities.
- The Nimba Mountains are exceptional in their diversity of fauna and flora with a high rate of endemism. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981 and listed as World Heritage in Danger since 1992. It is also recognized as an Important Bird Area.
- Long-term chimpanzee research has been ongoing since 2003 at the Seringbara study site on the Guinean side of the Nimba Mountains.
Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve is located in the Nimba Mountains at the tri-national border of Guinea, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. It was designated a Strict Nature Reserve in 1944 (IUCN Category Ia) and is transboundary with Mount Nimba Integral Reserve (Côte d’Ivoire) and East Nimba Nature Reserve (Liberia, UNEP-WCMC and IUCN 2018). Unlike other protected areas in Guinea, Nimba was managed the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle (Paris) and the Institut Français d’Afrique Noire (Dakar) after its creation (Brugière & Kormos 2009, Garnier & Martinez 2011). Consequently, the site as a long history of scientific studies (Garnier & Martinez 2011). The reserve is now managed by the Centre for the Management of the Environment of Mount Nimba-Simandou (‘Centre National de Gestion de l’Environnement des Monts Nimba et Simandou‘, CEGENS) under the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests and Sustainable Development, and fulfills administrative as well as scientific responsibilities (UNESCO 2018a). The Nimba Mountains are a chain of mountains stretching across 40 km with the highest peak being Mount Nimba with 1,752m (Kormos & Boesch 2003). The area is characterized by a high plant and animal diversity and a high rate of endemism. The terrain is steep and the source if several rivers (Granier 2008). The habitat is moist forest up to 1,000 m altitude, but also includes grassland and wooded savanna (UNESCO 2018a). Due to strong seasonality and the abrupt change in altitude a variety of microclimates exist contributing to the high biodiversity (UNESCO 2018a). The most well-known endemic species are the Micropotamogale of Mount Nimba (Micropotamogale lamottei, a shrew), the viviparous toad of Mount Nimba (Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis) (UNESCO 2018a). In total, more than 317 vertebrate species, including 107 mammal species, more than 2,500 invertebrate species, and 2,000 plant species have been described (UNESCO 2018). Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981 and the only one in Guinea (UNESCO 2018). It covers both Guinea (125.4 km2) and Côte d’Ivoire (50 km2). However, due to the threat of iron mining and the arrival of a large number of refugees from Liberia it has been listed as World Heritage in Danger since 1992 (UNESCO 2018a). Since 1980 the Guinean part of the Nimba Mountains is also part of the Mont Nimba Biosphere Reserve that also includes Déré forest and Bossou hills (UNESCO 2011). Even though the avifauna is not well studied in the Guinean part of the Nimba Mountains, its diversity is assumed to be similar to the Liberian part of the mountain range, and the area is consequently recognized as an Important Bird Area (BirdLife International 2018a).
Table 1: Basic site information for Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve
|Coordinates||7.64 N, 8.41 W|
|Designation||Strict Nature Reserve (IUCN Management Category Ia)|
|Habitat types||Subtropical/tropical moist montane forest, subtropical/tropical moist lowland forest, dry savanna, permanent rivers, arable land|
Surveys in different parts of the Nimba Mountains confirmed the presence of western chimpanzees (Sugiyama 1995, Shimada 2001). From the beginning these surveys were also aimed to study chimpanzee behavior, such as nesting behavior and tool-use behavior (details below). In the Regional Conservation Action Plan for western chimpanzees in 2003 the Nimba Mountains were identified as an ‘Exceptionally Important Priority Area’ (Kormos & Boesch 2003). Detailed surveys on chimpanzee density distribution were conducted by Nicolas Granier during multiple surveys after 2006 that focused on the eastern part of the protected area and the southern slope of Mount Nimba (Granier 2011, Granier et al. 2014). A transect survey conducted by the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation estimated the chimpanzee population in the reserve at around 166 individuals (WCF 2012). Long-term chimpanzee research has been ongoing at the Seringbara study site since 2003 on the Guinean side of the Nimba Mountains (Koops 2011). The Seringbara study site is on the western side of the Nimba Mountains, in the foothills adjacent to the small village of Seringbara in south-eastern Guinea (7° 37’50.0”N, 8° 27’44.7”W). The study area covers about 30 km² and is about 6 km southeast of the Bossou research site and 10 km from the Yealé study site on the other side of the Nimba Mountains in Ivory Coast. The Seringbara region of the Nimba Mountains is separated from the Bossou hills by 4 km of savannah. Since 2003, Kathelijne Koops has directed research at the Seringbara study site and researchers and field assistants have maintained a near-constant presence at the site. The study population remains only partly habituated to human observers due to the extremely rugged nature of the terrain. For more information on the study site, see Koops (2011), Koops et al (2007; 2010; 2012a, b; 2013; 2015, 2019) and Fitzgerald et al. (2018).
Table 2: Great ape population estimates in Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve
|Species||Year||Abundance estimate (95% confidence interval)||Density estimate (per km²)||Encounter rate (nests/km)||Area||Method||Source||Comments||A.P.E.S. database ID|
|Pan troglodytes verus||1991||Present||North of Goera||Index survey||Sugiyama 1995||Reconnaissance survey|
|Pan troglodytes verus||1999||Present||North east of Seringbara village||Index survey||Shimada 2000||Reconnaissance survey|
|Pan troglodytes verus||1999||Present||North of Goera||Index survey||Shimada 2000||Reconnaissance survey|
|Pan troglodytes verus||2006-2008||1.14 chimpanzee signs /km||Eastern part of the reserve||Line transects (Distance), Index survey||Granier 2011||Total survey effort: 350 km; combination of line transect, reconnaissance survey and scouting surveys|
|Pan troglodytes verus||2009-2011||8-39||0.46||Southern slope of Nimba Mountains [covered Guinean section (10km2) and Côte d’Ivoirian section (50km²)]||Line transects (Distance), Index survey||Granier et al. 2014||Total survey effort: 78.21 km; combination of line transect and reconnaissance survey, abundance and density estimate only based on transects (i.e., 12.5 km)|
|Pan troglodytes verus||2009||166||1.33||6.58||Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (i.e., Guinean part of Nimba Mountains)||Line transects (Distance)||WCF 2012||Total survey effort: 59.4 km|
Since 1992 Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve is listed as a ‘World Heritage in Danger’ because of plans to mine iron ore inside the reserve and an increase in anthropogenic pressure due to the arrival of refugees from Liberia (UNESCO 2018). Insufficient institutional structure was also reported as a threat (UNESCO 2018). As a result the boundary of the reserve were changed by the World Heritage Committee in 1993 and 15.5 km2 were degazetted so that mining operations could take place (Brugière & Kormos 2009). Population density is high in the area around the reserve, also as consequence of mining activities in the Nimba Mountains. Consequently, poaching, wood extraction, land conversion to agriculture and cattle grazing using fires, and harvesting of medicinal plants is very prevalent across the area (Shimada 2000, WCF 2012, BirdLife International 2018b, UNESCO 2018a). In a nation-wide survey across 12 sites in Guinea, the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation concluded that Nimba was the most threatened site with 3.94 signs of human activity per km (WCF 2012). The most prevalent threat was poaching (2.74 signs/km), followed by agriculture, and wood extraction (WCF 2012). Agricultural activities have been on-going for decades especially in the northern part close to Seringbara and around Thuo towards the Liberian border (WCF 2012). According to the World Heritage Centre, the Guinean government arranged for all mining operations to halt in the reserve and that mining permits had been withdrawn (UNESCO 2018b). However, mining will commence in the mining enclave, a part of the World Heritage Site that has been declassified. The World Heritage Center concluded that provided information was ambiguous, and that Environmental and Social Impact Assessments had not yet been implemented by mining companies or did not confirm to international standards (UNESCO 2018b). In addition, there are plans to tarmac a road from Lola (Guinea) to Danané (Côte d’Ivoire) that would pass by Mount Nimba and likely negatively impact biodiversity due to pollution, increased poaching and illegal logging (UNESCO 2018b).
Table 3: Threats to great apes in Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve
|Category||Specific threats||Threat level||Quantified severity||Description||Year of threat|
|1. Residential & commercial development||Absent|
|2. Agriculture & aquaculture||2.1. Annual & Perennial Non-Timber Crops||Medium||0.62 signs of agriculture/km (37 signs of agriculture, survey effort: 59.424 km, WCF 2012)||Agricultural activities especially in the northern part around Seringbara and towards the border with Liberia (METT 2009, WCF 2012)||Ongoing (2012)|
|2.3. Livestock Farming & Ranching||Present||Present (METT 2009, UNESCO 2018b), level of threat not known||Ongoing (2018)|
|3. Energy production & mining||3.2. Mining & Quarrying||Present||0.05 signs of mines/km (3 signs of mines, survey effort: 59.424 km, WCF 2012)||Exploration for iron ore, activities seem to have ceased, but current threat level not clear (METT 2009, UNESCO 2018b)||Unknown (2018)|
|4. Transportation & service corridors||4.1. Roads & railroads||Present||0.08 roads/km (5 roads, survey effort: 59.424 km, WCF 2012)||Tarmacking of a road passing by the reserve in planning and would reinforce anthropogenic pressures such as poaching and illegal wood extraction (UNESCO 2018b), signs of paths inside reserve (WCF 2012)||Ongoing (2018)|
|5. Biological resource use||5.1. Hunting & collecting terrestrial animals||High||2.74 signs of hunting/km (163 signs of hunting, survey effort: 59.424 km, WCF 2012)||Most prevalent sign of human activity inside the reserve (WCF 2012), also confirmed by BirdLife International 2018b, METT 2009, Shimada 2000, UNESCO 2018b||Ongoing (2012)|
|5.2. Gathering terrestrial plants||Medium||Collection of medicinal plants (BirdLife International 2018b)||Ongoing (2018)|
|5.3. Logging & wood harvesting||Medium||0.40 signs of wood extraction/km 24 signs of wood extraction, survey effort: 59.424 km, WCF 2012)||Wood extraction (WCF 2012)||Ongoing (2012)|
|6. Human intrusions & disturbance||Absent|
|7. Natural system modifications||7.1. Fire & Fire suppression||Medium||0.07 signs of fire/km (4 signs of fire, survey effort: 59.424 km, WCF 2012)||Fires used to clear land for agricultural and cattle grazing (METT 2009, UNESCO 2018b, WCF 2012)||Ongoing (2018)|
|8. Invasive & other problematic species, genes, diseases||Unknown|
|10. Geological Events||Absent|
|11. Climate change & severe weather||Unknown|
|12. Other options||Absent|
The governmental unit responsible for the administration of the reserve is the Centre for the Management of the Environment of Mount Nimba-Simandou (CEGENS) under the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests and Sustainable Development, and fulfills administrative as well as scientific responsibilities (UNESCO 2018a). The project ‘Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests and Sustainable Development’ by Fauna & Flora International and funded by the Darwin Initiative established a transboundary biodiversity governance platform with the aim to compile data, build capacity and improve stakeholder collaboration (2009 -20012, Darwin Nimba Project). The project also received follow-up funding from USAID, but whether it is still operational as of 2018 is not clear. Activities included stakeholder consultation, capacity building through workshops and data compilation (Darwin Nimba Project). The nine-month project ‘Strengthening capacity of local communities to sustainably manage Mount Nimba’s natural resources’ headed by BirdLife International and financed by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund’s (CEPF) was implemented by the ‘Initiative de Base pour la Gestion des Ressources Naturelles’ (IBGRN) until February 2018 (BirdLife International 2018b). The project established community groups, youth-led or women-led, and also two networks of traditional healers and hunters, and the groups also received legal status. Implemented activities included workshops and trainings in “micro-projects, internal governance, financial management, marketing, advocacy and communication” (BirdLife International 2018b). In addition, group members were trained in gardening and farming practices, and use of fuel efficient stoves with the aim to reduce reliance on natural resources from the protected area (BirdLife International 2018b).
Table 4: Conservation activities in Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve
|Category||Specific activity||Description||Year of activity|
|1. Residential & commercial development||Not reported|
|2. Agriculture & aquaculture||2.11. Farm more intensively and effectively in selected areas and spare more natural land||Communities received training on improved farming practices (BirdLife International 2018b)||2017-2018|
|3. Energy production & mining||Not reported|
|4. Transportation & service corridors||Not reported|
|5. Biological resource use||5.17. Provide sustainable alternative livelihoods; establish fish- or domestic meat farms||Communities received training in financial, marketing and advocacy matters and in farming practices to decrease their reliance of natural resources from the protected area (BirdLife International 2018b)||2017-2018|
|6. Human intrusions & disturbance||Not reported|
|7. Natural system modifications||Not reported|
|8. Invasive & other problematic species, genes, diseases||Not reported|
|9. Pollution||Not reported|
|10. Education & Awareness||Not reported|
|11. Habitat Protection||11.2. Legally protect primate habitat||Designated a Strict Nature Reserve in 1944 (UNEP-WCMC and IUCN 2018)||Since 1944|
|12. Species Management||Not reported|
|13. Livelihood; Economic & Other Incentives||Not reported|
Lack of transboundary cooperation as well as lack of technical, financial and human resources were mentioned as impediments to effective protection of the reserve (Granier and Martinez 2011, UNESCO 2018a, UNESCO 2018b).
Table 5: Impediments reported for Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve
|Lack of capacity||UNESCO 2018a, UNESCO 2018b|
|Lack of financial means||UNESCO 2018a, UNESCO 2018b|
|Lack of human resources||UNESCO 2018b|
|Lack of technical means||UNESCO 2018a|
|Lack of transboundary cooperation||Granier and Martinez 2011, UNESCO 2018b|
The Nimba Mountains have been the focus of research for several decades. In the 1940’s a research station was established in Ziéla to the North of the Nimba Mountains and researchers including Maxime Lamotte, Roger Roy, and other scientists from the Institut Français d’Afrique Noire in Dakar, conducted studies on the fauna and flora, but also on climate and geology (Granier & Martinez 2011). In the context of the recognition of Nimba as a World Heritage Site several missions have been conducted by UNESCO (UNESCO 2018b). Many other organization conducted research here, for example on the Nimba toad (Hillers et al. 2008, Sandberger-Loua et al. 2016). Studies targeted at chimpanzees in the Mount Nimba Strict Nature reserve, also investigated chimpanzee behavior, such as tool use (Sugiyama 1995, Shimada 2000), but also habitat use and nesting behavior (Granier et al. 2014). Long-term chimpanzee research is ongoing at the Seringbara study site in Guinea. Initial research at Seringbara focused on tool use behaviour by the Nimba chimpanzees especially in comparison to the chimpanzees at Bossou (e.g., Humle & Matsuzawa 2001, Koops 2011, Shimada 2000, Sugiyama 1995). Subsequently, Seringbara research broadened to include chimpanzee tool use patterns (Koops et al. 2013, 2015), feeding ecology (Koops 2011, Koops et al. 2013, 2019), grouping and ranging patterns (van Leeuwen et al. in press), nesting behaviour (Koops et al. 2007, 2012a,b), habitat suitability modeling (Fitzgerald et al. 2018), molecular genetics (Koops et al 2012b, Koops et al. in prep), nutritional analyses (Koops et al. 2019) and conservation strategies (Fitzgerald et al. in prep).
Table 6: Great ape behaviors reported for Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve
|Ant dipping||Humle & Matsuzawa 2001, Koops et al. 2015, Granier 2011|
|Crab fishing||Koops et al. 2019|
|Fruit cleaving (Treculia)||Koops et al. 2010|
|Hand clapping||Koops & Matsuzawa 2006|
|Leaf biting||Koops 2011|
|Leaf cushion||Koops 2011|
|Leaf swallowing||Koops 2011|
|Making ground nests||Humle & Matsuzawa 2001, Koops et al. 2007, Koops 2011, Koops et al. 2012a,b|
|Medicinal uses of leaves||Koops 2011|
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Page completed by: A.P.E.S. Wiki Team & Kathelijne Koops Date: 27/11/2019