Variation over Time in Parasite Prevalence Among Free-ranging Chimpanzees at Gombe National Park, Tanzania

  • Jared S. Bakuza
  • Gamba Nkwengulila


From January to September, 2005, we collected fecal samples from 60 chimpanzees at Gombe National Park, Tanzania and examined them for parasites. We compared current parasite prevalence data with previous studies to obtain a pattern of parasitism over time. There were considerable similarities in the parasite species composition and prevalence, although we noted some variations. Generally, parasite prevalence decreased over time, with the present prevalence being lower than in previous surveys. We identified 8 types of parasites, all of which had previously been documented in the chimpanzees of Gombe. Three nematodes — Oesophagostomum sp., Strongyloides fulleborni, and Abbreviata caucassica— occurred at higher prevalence (41.2–45.5%) but relatively lower than previous findings of 50–91%. We also diagnosed unidentified strongyles at a moderate prevalence (33%), lower than a previous record of 41%. Probstmayria gombensis occurred at relatively low prevalence (16.4%) vs. past observations (23–59%), while the prevalence of Trichuris sp. (7.3%) was closely similar to previous records of 5–9%. We also observed unidentified ciliate at 9% within the same range as in previous studies (5–28%). The prevalence of Troglodytella abrassarti was 78%, closely similar to previous findings of 75%. There was no significant variation in parasite prevalence between chimpanzees of the Kasekela community and those of the Mitumba community, although the former tended to have higher prevalence of helminths than the latter. The causes of the similarities and variations in parasite prevalence over time are discussed. The study provides baseline data for monitoring of chimpanzee health at Gombe.


chimpanzee Gombe parasites prevalence 



We thank the Jane Goodall Institute, Tanzania and the Lincoln Park Zoo of Chicago for financing this study, and the Gombe Stream Research Centre and Gombe National Park for facilitating our fieldwork at Gombe. We also thank M. A. Mtambo for allowing us to carry out part of the laboratory work in the Veterinary Clinic at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA). We also thank the laboratory technicians at SUA, particularly Mr. A. Kitime and Mr. Mkuchu for their assistance during sample examination. We thank A. Collins, S. Kamenya, and M. Wilson for their advice throughout the study. We also thank field assistants at Gombe for helping to collect the samples. We thank H. Hasegawa, G. Thomas, and P. Joel for their assistance in identifying the parasites and M. A. Huffman for providing helpful comments on the manuscript.


  1. Allen, A. V. H., & Ridley, D. S. (1970). Further observations on the formol-ether concentration technique for faecal parasites. Journal of Clinical Pathology, 23, 545–546. doi: 10.1136/jcp.23.6.545.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, R. M., & Gordon, D. M. (1982). Processes influencing the distribution parasite numbers within host populations with special emphasis on parasite-induced host mortalities. Parasitology, 85, 373–398.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Appleton, C. C., & Henzi, S. P. (1993). Environmental correlates of gastrointestinal parasitism in the montane and lowland baboons in Natal, South Africa. International Journal of Primatology, 14, 623–636. doi: 10.1007/BF02215451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ashford, R. W., Reid, G. D. F., & Wrangham, R. W. (2000). Intestinal parasites of the chimpanzee Pan troglodytes, in Kibale Forest, Uganda. Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology, 94, 173–179. doi: 10.1080/00034980057518.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bush, A. O., Lafferty, K. D., Lotz, J. F., & Shostak, A. W. (1997). Parasitology meets ecology on its own terms. Bush et al. revisited. Journal of Parasitology, 83, 575–583. doi: 10.2307/3284227.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bush, A. O., Fernandez, J. C., Esch, G. W., & Seed, R. J. (2001). Parasitism: The Diversity and Ecology of Animal Parasites p. 566. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cheesbrough, M. (1998). District Laboratory Practice in Tropical Countries. Part 1 p. 454. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Collins, D. A., & McGrew, W. C. (1988). Habitats of three groups of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in western Tanzania compared. Journal of Human Evolution, 17, 553–574. doi: 10.1016/0047-2484(88)90084-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. File, S. K., McGrew, W. C., & Tutin, C. E. G. (1976). The intestinal parasites of a community of feral chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). The Journal of Parasitology, 62, 259–261. doi: 10.2307/3279280.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Freeland, W. J. (1979). Primate social groups as biological islands. Ecology, 60, 719–728. doi: 10.2307/1936609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gao, F., Bailes, E., Robertson, D. L., Chen, Y., Rodenburg, C. M., Michael, S. F., et al. (1999). Origin of HIV-1 in the chimpanzee Pan troglodytes troglodytes. Nature, 397, 436–441. doi: 10.1038/17130.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gillespie, T. R. (2006). Non-invasive assessment of gastro-intestinal parasite infections in free-ranging primates. International Journal of Primatology, 27, 1129–1143. doi: 10.1007/s10764-006-9064-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Goodall, J. (1986). The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behaviour p. 544. London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Hahn, B. H., Shaw, G. M., De Cock, K. M., & Sharp, P. M. (2000). AIDS as a zoonosis: Scientific and public health implications. Science, 287, 607–614. doi: 10.1126/science.287.5453.607.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hasegawa, H., Kano, T., & Mulavwa, M. (1983). A parasitological survey on the faeces of pygmy chimpanzees, Pan paniscus, at Wamba, Zaire. Primates, 24, 287–297. doi: 10.1007/BF02381986.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Healy, G. R., & Myers, J. B. (1973). Intestinal helminths of primates. In G. H. Bourne (Ed.), The Chimpanzee, Vol. 6 (pp. 265–296). Baltimore: University Park Press.Google Scholar
  17. Homsy, J. (1999). Ape Tourism and Human Diseases: How Close Should We Get? A Critical Review of the Rules and Regulations Governing Park Management and Tourism for the Wild Mountain Gorilla, Gorilla gorilla beringei. Unpublished report for the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, 79 pp.Google Scholar
  18. Huffman, M. A., Gotoh, S., Turner, L. A., Hamai, M., & Yoshida, K. (1997). Seasonal trends in intestinal nematode infection and medicinal plant use among chimpanzees in the Mahale Mountains, Tanzania. Primates, 38, 111–125. doi: 10.1007/BF02382002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Inskipp, T. (2005). Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). In J. Caldecott, & L. Miles (Eds.), World Atlas of Great Apes and Their Conservation (pp. 53–81). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  20. Kawabata, M., & Nishida, T. (1991). A preliminary note on the intestinal parasites of wild chimpanzees in the Mahale Mountains, Tanzania. Primates, 32, 275–278. doi: 10.1007/BF02381187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ken, N., Shotake, T., Kawamoto, Y., & Tanabe, Y. (1982). Electrophoretically estimated genetic distance and divergence time between chimpanzee and man. Primates, 23, 432–443. doi: 10.1007/BF02381325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kirby, H. (1964). Relationship between protozoa and other animals. In G. N. Calkins, & F. M. Summers (Eds.), Protozoa in Biological Research (pp. 870–1008). New York: Hafner.Google Scholar
  23. Krief, S., Huffman, M. A., Evenet, T. S., Guillot, J., Bories, C., Hladik, C. M., et al. (2005). Non-invasive monitoring of the health of Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii in the Kibale National Park, Uganda. International Journal of Primatology, 26, 467–490. doi: 10.1007/s10764-005-2934-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Landsoud-Soukate, J., Tutin, C. E., & Fernandez, M. (1995). Intestinal parasite of sympatric gorillas and chimpanzees in the Lope Reserve, Gabon. Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology, 891, 73–79.Google Scholar
  25. Lilly, A. A., Mehlman, P. T., & Doran, D. (2002). Intestinal parasites in gorillas, chimpanzees and humans at Mondika Research Site, Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Republic. International Journal of Primatology, 23, 555–573. doi: 10.1023/A:1014969617036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lukasik, M. (1999). Establishing a long-term veterinary program for free-ranging chimpanzees in Tanzania. Pan Africa News, 9(2), 01.Google Scholar
  27. McGrew, W. W., Tutin, C. E. G., Collins, D. A., & File, S. K. (1989). Intestinal parasites of sympatric Pan troglodytes and Papio spp at two sites: Gombe (Tanzania) and Mt Assirik (Senegal). International Journal of Primatology, 17, 147–155. doi: 10.1002/ajp.1350170204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mtambo, M. M. A. (2001). Occurrence of Cryptosporidium sp and Cyclospora sp. ooysts in stool specimens of various wildlife species in Tanzania: Impact of human, livestock, wildlife interaction. In Proceedings of TAWIRI’s 2nd Annual Scientific Conference; Arusha, Tanzania, December 2001, pp. 72–77.Google Scholar
  29. Muller-Graf, C. M., Collins, D. A., & Woolhouse, M. J. (1997). Intestinal parasite burden in five troops of olive baboons in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. Parasitology, 112, 489–497.Google Scholar
  30. Murray, S., Stem, S., Boudreau, B., & Goodall, J. (2000). Intestinal parasites of baboons (Papio cyanocephalus anubis) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in Gombe National Park. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 32, 176–178.Google Scholar
  31. Myers, B. J., & Kuntz, R. E. (1972). A checklist of parasites and commensals reported for the chimpanzee (Pan). Primates, 13, 433–471. doi: 10.1007/BF01793663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Myers, B. J., Kuntz, R. E., & Kamara, J. A. (1973). Parasites and commensals of chimpanzees in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Proceedings of the Helminthological Society, Washington 40:298–299.Google Scholar
  33. Nutter, F. (1993). A Comparison of Gastrointestinal Parasites in Two Communities of Chimpanzees at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Unpublished MSc dissertation, Tufts University of Veterinary Medicine.Google Scholar
  34. Ocaido, M., Dranzoa, C., & Cheli, P. (2003). Gastrointestinal parasites of baboons (Papio anubis) interacting with humans in West Bugwe Forest Reserve, Uganda. African Journal of Ecology, 41, 356–359. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2028.2003.00483.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Roepstorff, A., & Nansen, P. (1998). Epidemiology, Diagnosis and Control of Helminth Parasites of Swine. FAO Animal Health Manual p. 161. Copenhagen, Denmark: The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University.Google Scholar
  36. Rózsa, L., Reiczigel, J., & Majorost, G. (2000). Quantifying parasites in samples of hosts. The Journal of Parasitology, 86, 228–232.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Spencer, F. M., & Monroe, L. S. (1982). The Color Atlas of Intestinal Parasites (with Foreword by Faust, E. C), 2nd ed. Charles C Thomas, Springfield, IL,162 pp.Google Scholar
  38. Van Geldorp, P. J. A., & Schillhorn van Veen, T. W. (1976). Peri-parturient rise in faecal helminth egg counts of Udah sheep in the Zaria area of Nigeria. Veterinary Parasitology, 1, 265–269. doi: 10.1016/0304-4017(76)90099-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wallis, J., & Lee, R. D. (1999). Primate conservation. The prevention of disease transmission. International Journal of Primatology, 20, 803–826. doi: 10.1023/A:1020879700286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. WHO (World Health Organisation) (1991). Basic Laboratory Methods in Medical Parasitology p. 114. Geneva: World Health Organisation.Google Scholar
  41. Wolfe, N. D., Escalante, A. A., Karesh, W. B., Kilbourn, A., Spielman, A., & Lal, A. A. (1998). Wild primate populations in emerging infectious disease research: The missing link? Emerging Infectious Diseases, 4, 149–158.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Woodford, M. H., Butynski, M. T., & Karesh, W. B. (2002). Habituating the great apes: The disease risks. Oryx, 36, 153–160. doi: 10.1017/S0030605302000224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesDar es Salaam University College of EducationDar es SalaamTanzania
  2. 2.Department of Zoology and Wildlife ConservationUniversity of Dar es SalaamDar es SalaamTanzania

Personalised recommendations