Using retrospective health data from the Gombe chimpanzee study to inform future monitoring efforts

E. V. Lonsdorf, D. Travis, A. E. Pusey, J. Goodall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Disease outbreaks, either in isolation or in concert with other risk factors, can pose serious threats to the long-term persistence of mammal populations, and these risks become elevated as population size decreases and/or population isolation increases. Many chimpanzee study sites are increasingly isolated by loss of habitat due to human encroachment, and managers of parks that contain chimpanzees perceive that disease outbreaks have been and continue to be significant causes of mortality for chimpanzees. Major epidemics at Gombe National Park include suspected polio in 1966; respiratory diseases in 1968, 1987, 1996, 2000, and 2002; and sarcoptic mange in 1997. These outbreaks have led park managers and researchers working in Gombe to conclude that disease poses a substantial risk to the long-term survival of Gombe's chimpanzee population. We surveyed behavioral data records spanning 44 years for health-related data and found a combination of standardized and nonstandardized data for the entire period. Here we present the types of data found during the survey, discuss the usefulness of these data in the context of risk assessment, and describe how our current monitoring effort at Gombe was designed based on our findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)897-908
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican journal of primatology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Chimpanzees
  • Disease
  • Health
  • Retrospective studies
  • Risk assessment


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