In a remote region of the Republic of Congo, researchers are conducting groundbreaking research into how gorillas and chimpanzees live alongside one another in one of the most pristine landscapes on earth.
Studying a One-of-a-Kind Home For Gorillas and Chimpanzees
In a remote region of the Republic of Congo, zoo scientists are studying gorillas and chimpanzees living together in a one-of-a-kind ecosystem. The pristine Goualougo Triangle lets researchers monitor great ape behavior and tool use in a setting untouched by human influence. Neighboring areas offer the unprecedented opportunity to measure human impact—and develop conservation plans—as logging, agriculture and roads approach what was once untouched rainforest.
Experience the Goualougo Triangle
Travel to an Untouched Ecosystem
A trip to the Goualougo Triangle's remote rainforest home for chimpanzees and gorillas is a multiday affair, involving flights, canoes and an all-day hike through the swamp.
Follow the World’s Wildest Apes
The Goualougo Triangle's chimpanzees and gorillas are nearly untouched by human influence, letting researchers study truly wild ape behavior and tool use.
Preserve their Home for the Future
While the Goualougo Triangle is protected, neighboring rainforest habitat for chimpanzees and gorillas is not. By studying the impact of sustainable logging, researchers can help develop a blueprint for protecting apes throughout Africa.
Travel to an Untouched Ecosystem
Watch a video of the arduous journey taken by zoo researchers to reach the remote Congo forest home of wild gorillas and chimpanzees.
Getting to the 95,000-acre Goualougo Triangle region of the Republic of Congo is a multi-day affair, involving international flights, rattling drives, boat and canoe rides and a full-day hike through swamp and rainforest.
Of course, the remoteness of the setting is what makes it a spectacular home for wilderness. Part of Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, the Goualougo Triangle is home to animals including gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, aardvarks, red river hogs and more.
Gorillas and chimpanzees are the focus of the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project, though, and Lincoln Park Zoo Research Fellow Dave Morgan, Ph.D., and his wife and research partner Crickette Sanz have studied these species in this remote site since 1999. A team of dozens of local people help Dave and Crickette maintain the camp, track chimpanzees and gorillas through the forest and monitor the apes’ unique behaviors.
Their home base is a low-impact camp built from tarps, branches and mud bases. All food and supplies are brought in by boat and on foot (with garbage leaving on the return voyage). While the camp infrastructure is rustic, solar panels provide green power to laptops, rechargeable batteries and research equipment. It’s a sustainable fit for a wild ecosystem.
Deep Forest Odyssey
Zoo scientist Steve Ross offers a firsthand account of traveling to Lincoln Park Zoo's field-research site in the Republic of Congo's remote Goualougo Triangle.
A Walk in the Forest
Towering trees and elephant footprints—Vice President of Conservation & Science Lisa Faust shares what it’s like to walk through the forests of the Goualougo Triangle.
Leading the Way in Goualougo
Research Fellow David Morgan shares the key role indigenous trackers play in the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project.
Dozens of “camera traps” in the Republic of Congo’s remote Goualougo Triangle let zoo scientists record how chimpanzees use tools in the wild. It’s one of the many ways the zoo’s Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes is helping us understand our closest cousins.
Largely untouched by human influence, the Goualougo Triangle’s chimpanzees and gorillas display rarely witnessed natural behaviors. Goualougo Triangle Ape Project directors David Morgan, Ph.D., and Crickette Sanz, Ph.D., work with a field team of Congolese assistants to track the apes as they move through the forest, recording how the animals interact with one another, manipulate tools and forage for food.
Motion-sensitive “camera traps” record the elusive animals in remote regions of the park while fecal samples are collected and analyzed to provide a window into their well-being. One exciting finding is a novel tool-use behavior from the Goualougo's chimpanzees. The apes use a stout stick to “punch” holes in termite mounds—something unseen elsewhere—before “fishing” the insects out with a slender, herbaceous tool.
Goualougo Video Lab
A network of 65 “camera traps” records ape behavior in the Goualougo Triangle. By analyzing this footage at the zoo, our scientists are revealing new findings about how chimpanzees and gorillas live in the wild.
On the Trail of Ebobo
Curator of Primates Maureen Leahy shares what it's like to look for wild gorillas in the treetops of the Goualougo Triangle.
A Silverback Sighting
Studying wild gorillas isn't easy—it takes months of trekking through the jungle to get a gorilla troop comfortable with being observed by humans.
The Goualougo Triangle is protected parkland, but neighboring areas are open to development. Zoo scientists are studying sustainable logging in the region to try to build a blueprint to protect apes throughout Africa.
As researchers monitor the apes of the Goualougo Triangle to learn more about their behavior, they’re also collecting data about the impact of logging on chimpanzee and gorillas. The Goualougo Triangle is part of Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, but the forests around the Triangle are allocated for timber exploitation. By monitoring the movement of at-risk chimpanzee and gorilla populations before, during and after logging, the researchers are gathering information to improve sustainable logging practices, boosting conservation across Africa.
The Color of Money
Goualougo Triangle Ape Project co-director Dave Morgan shares how sustainable logging may offer a way to save habitat for gorillas and chimpanzees in the Republic of Congo.
Jean Robert Onononga, M.S., Project Manager
Crepin Ayina, Senior Research Assistant and Transect Team Leader
Sydney Ndolo, Senior Research Assistant and Staff Botanist
How You Can Help
Supporting the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project helps to advance the conservation of apes throughout Africa. For more information, please contact Lincoln Park Zoo's Development Department at 312-742-2000.