Ecology and conservation of the drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus)

Funded from 2004-2008 by Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, Greece (PhD Scholarship), Primate Society of Great Britain, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (CTFS Grant), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), New York
Explorer's Club, Conservation International, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and the American Society of Primatologists

The Drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus) was identified by the IUCN/SCC Primate Specialist Group in 1996 as the African primate with the highest priority for conservation action in recognition of its taxonomic distinctiveness, restricted distribution and degree of threat from hunting and habitat destruction. Currently however, conservation initiatives for the species are hindered by our poor understanding of drill ecology and status in the wild. With the exception of more recent drill surveys in Bioko Island, Cameroon and Nigeria, no studies of drills in the wild have taken place since early 1970s. In absence of such studies, our understanding of drill social structure and habitat requirements is based mainly on inferences from mandrill (M. sphinx) studies, drill's sole congener. The objective of this study is to improve our natural history understanding of the species by studying wild drills in Korup National Park, Cameroon and to suggest conservation initiatives for its survival. Specifically, the study examines drill a) group size and structure, b) home range and habitat use, c) diet and d) hunting with the use of dogs, arguably the most serious threat of drill survival within protected areas. Non-intrusive methodologies such as faecal analysis, video-camera trapping and interviews with local hunters are used. Finally, this study intends to set the ground for future research on drills in the region and to establish cooperation among the few drill researchers.

Participating department members
Christos Astaras, Matthias Waltert, Michael Mühlenberg


Ting, N., Astaras, C., Hearn, G., Corush, J., Burrell, A.S., Phillips, N., Morgan, B.J., Gadsby, E.L., Raaum, R., Roos, C. Genetic signatures of a demographic collapse in a large-bodied forest dwelling primate (Mandrillus leucophaeus). Molecular Ecology (submitted)

Ting, N., Astaras, C., Hearn, G., Corush, J.,Burrell, A.S., Phillips, N., Morgan, B.J., Gadsby, E.L., Roos, C. (2011) Genetic signatures of a Late Pleistocene demographic collapse in an Endangered forest dwelling primate (Mandrillus leucophaeus). American Journal of Physical Anthropology 144: 295.

Astaras, C., Krause, S., Mattner, L., Rehse, C. & Waltert, M. (2011) Associations between the drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus) and sympatric monkeys in Korup National Park, Cameroon. American Journal of Primatology 71:1-8. doi: 10.1002/ajp.20877

Astaras, C. & Waltert, M. (2010) What does seed handling by the drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus) tell us about the ecological services of terrestrial cercopithecines in African forests? Animal Conservation 13:568-578. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-1795.2010.00378.x

Astaras, C. (2009) Ecology and Status of the Drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus) in Korup National Park: Implications for conservation. PhD thesis Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany. [ISBN 9783941274198, available at]

Astaras, C. (2008) Preliminary findings on drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus) ecology and status in Korup National Park, southwest Cameroon: Implications for conservation. Folia Primatologica 79: 129.

Astaras, C, Mühlenberg, M. & Waltert, M. (2008) Note on drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus) ecology and conservation status in Korup National Park, Southwest Cameroon. American Journal of Primatology 70: 306-310.

Christos Astaras
Tel. 0049-(0)551-395634
Fax. 0049-(0)551-399234