Dr Nikki Tagg

Nikki was Project Director of 'Projet Grands Singes' in Cameroon from 2007 to 2022. Nikki now works as the Head of Conservation at Born Free Foundation, UK. With the departure of Nikki, after 20 years of research and conservation activities by the CRC in Cameroon, the activities of Projet Grands Singes were handed over to the Cameroonian NGO APGS (Association de la Protection de Grands Singes).

Research themes

  • Conservation science
  • Primatology


I manage an in-situ conservation project (Projet Grands Singes/ PGS ) in East region, Cameroon, which aims to enable the coexistence of wild great apes and local people in a community living in the northern buffer zone of the Dja Biosphere Reserve – an exceptional priority area for great ape conservation. PGS Cameroon seeks external funding and strategic partnerships for development initiatives in the villages, and collaborates closely with local authorities to increase awareness and application of wildlife law in the region. PGS Cameroon facilitates the conservation-applied research programme of the Centre for Research and Conservation (CRC) of Antwerp ZOO and Planckendael ZOO, which aims to understand the drivers of biodiversity loss and the mechanisms of balancing the needs of nature with those of people living within the Dja Landscape. PGS Cameroon maintains a research camp (La Belgique) in Dja buffer zone, where the CRC, associated researchers and students can implement their work.

Extra activities

I am copyeditor for the Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research (JZAR)

Research Interests

I am a conservation scientist with a particular interest in the drivers of change in tropical ecosystems. My overarching goal is to monitor the drivers of biodiversity loss and to understand the mechanisms of coexistence of people and nature. I use a multi-disciplinary approach, combining ecology, biology, social science, tropical and climate science, etc., and increasingly consider a broad landscape/ecosystem perspective. I have a particular interest in the socio-ecology, behaviour and survival of chimpanzees and gorillas and I study the effect of human activities on great ape abundance, in particular hunting, logging operations and researcher presence and activity: the majority of such research has clear conservation applications.

Brief Biography

I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology at the University of Wales, Cardiff, UK, in 2000, and then defended my PhD in Evolutionary Ecology at Southampton University, UK, in 2004. I have since lived and worked in Central Africa, predominantly involved with great ape conservation and research projects. In particular, I volunteered in the Republic of Congo for 1 year, and then worked for Max Planck (EVAN), Leipzig, in Loango National Park, Gabon for 2 years, on the launch of a chimpanzee and gorilla habituation and research project. Since then I have worked for the Centre for Research and Conservation (CRC) of Antwerp ZOO and Planckendael ZOO: in Cameroon for 4 years – during which time I re-launched PGS from temporary closure and helped re-build the project’s infrastructure – and later back in Europe, being based in Antwerp (Antwerp ZOO and Planckendael ZOO) and now UK. Since returning to Europe, I have been concentrating on disseminating the scientific output and conservation impact of PGS, seeking external funding, building research collaborations and strategic partnerships, supervising PhD and Masters students and developing the PGS project and research plan.

Key Publications

De Nys HM, Kingebeni PM, Keita AK, … Tagg N, et al. (2018) Large serological and molecular survey of Ebola viruses in a wide diversity of frugivorous and insectivorous bat species in Guinea, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Emerging Infectious Diseases

Fruth, Tagg & Stewart (2018) Sleep and nesting behavior in primates: A review. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.23373.

Tédonzong, L. R. D., Willie, J., Keuko, A. M. P., Kuenbou, J. K., Njotah, G., Tchamba, M. N., ... & Lens, L. (2018). Using abundance and habitat variables to identify high conservation value areas for threatened mammals. Biodiversity and Conservation, 27(5), 1115-1137. DOI:10.1007/s10531-017-1483-9.

Tagg N, McCarthy M, Dieguez P, Bocksberger G, Willie J, Mundry R …. Boesch C. (2018) Nocturnal activity in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): evidence for flexible sleeping patterns and insights into human evolution. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. DOI: 10.1002/AJPA.23478.

Tagg N, Maddison N, Dupain J, McGilchrist L, Mouamfon M, McCabe G, Ngo Badjeck MM, Tchouankep M, Mbohli D, Epanda MA, Ransom C, Fa JE (2018) A zoo-led study of the great ape bushmeat commodity chain in Cameroon. International Zoo Yearbook. 52: 1-12; DOI:10.1111/izy.12175.

Eva Avila, Tagg N, Manfred A. Epanda, Donald Mbohli, Inge Luyten, Eva Avila, Nikki Tagg, Jacob Willie, Miguel Ángel Farfán, J. Mario Vargas, Wagner Bonat, Jef Dupain, Luc Tedonzong, Martine Peeters (2017) Interpreting long-term trends in bushmeat harvest in southeast Cameroon. Acta Oecologica (in press), 1-9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actao.2017.09.007.

Haurez B, Tagg N, Petre C-A, Brostaux Y, Boubady A, Doucet J-L (2017) Seed dispersal effectiveness of the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) in Gabon. African Journal of Ecology. 56(2), 185-193

Hjalmar Kuehl, Ammie Kalan, Mimi Arandjelovic, … Nikki Tagg, … Jacob Willie, et al. (2016) Chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing. Nature Communications, doi 10.1038/srep22219. (online: 29/2/16)

Haurez B, Tagg N, Petre C-A, Vermeulen C & Doucet J-L (2016) Short term impact of selective logging on a western lowland gorilla population. Forest Ecology and Management, 364: 46-51.

Haurez B., Daïnou K., Tagg N., Petre C-A. & Doucet J-L. (2015). The role of great apes in seed dispersal of the tropical forest tree species Dacryodes normandii (Burseraceae) in Gabon. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 31(5), p. 395-402

Petre C-A, Tagg N, Beudels-Jamar, RC, Haurez, B, Doucet J-L (2015c) Western lowland gorilla seed dispersal: Are seeds adapted to long gut retention times? Acta Oecologica, 67: 59–65. doi: 10.1016/j.actao.2015.06.003.

Tagg N, Willie J, Duarte J, Petre CA, Fa JE (2015) Conservation research presence protects: Great ape abundance in the Dja region, Cameroon. Animal Conservation, 18: 489–498. doi: 10.1111/acv.12212.

Petre C-A, Tagg N, Beudels-Jamar, RC, Haurez, B, Salah, M, Willie J, Doucet J-L (2015b) Quantity and spatial distribution of seeds dispersed by a western lowland gorilla population in south-east Cameroon. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 31(3): 201-212.

D’Arc M, Ayouba A, Esteban A, Learn G, Boué V, Liegeois F, Etienne L, Leendertz F + Mountain gorilla team, Tagg N, Ooms M, Letko M, Viviana S, Sharp PM, Hahn BH, Delaporte E, Mpoudi Ngole E & Peeters M. (2015) Origin of the HIV-1 group O epidemic in western lowland gorillas. PNAS. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1502022112

Haurez B, Petre CA, Vermeulen C, Tagg N & Doucet JL. (2014) Western lowland gorilla density and nesting behavior in a Gabonese forest logged for 25 years: Implications for gorilla conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation, 23: 2669-2687.

Sanz C, Deblauwe I, Tagg N & Morgan D. (2014) Insect prey characteristics affecting regional variation in chimpanzee tool use. Journal of Human Ecology, 71: 28-37.

Etiendem DN & Tagg N. (2013) Feeding Ecology of Cross River gorillas (Gorilla gorilla diehli) at Mawambi Hills: the influence of resource seasonality. International Journal of Primatology, DOI 10.1007/s10764-013-9739-z.

Etiendem, DN, Tagg, N, Hens, L & Pereboom, Z. (2013) Human use of Mawambi Hills forests, SW Cameroon: Implications for the survival of the Cross River gorilla. Endangered Species Research 20: 167-179.

Etiendem DN, Funwi-Gabga N, Tagg N, Hens L & Endah EK. (2013) Habitat suitability and vulnerability to anthropogenic disturbance for Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) at Mawambi Hills, SW Cameroon. Folia Primatologica. 84: 18-31.

Petre C-A, Tagg N, Haurez B, Beudels-Jamar R, Huynen M-C & Doucet J-L (2013) Role of the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) in seed dispersal in tropical forests and implications of its decline. Biotechnol. Agron. Soc. Environ. 17(3): 517-526.

Tagg N & Willie J. (2013) The influence of transect use by local people and re-use of transects for repeated surveys on nesting in western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and central chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) in southeast Cameroon. International Journal of Primatology, 34: 554-570.

Tagg N, Willie J, Petre C-A & Haggis O. (2013) Ground night nesting in chimpanzee: new insights from central chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) in southeast Cameroon. Folia Primatologica, 84: 362-383.

Willie J, Tagg N, Petre C-A & Lens L. (2012b) Density of herbaceous plants and distribution of western gorillas in different habitat types in southeast Cameroon. African Journal of Ecology. 51: 111-121.

Authored book chapters
Fa JE & Tagg N. (July 2016) Hunting of Primates. In: Primate Conservation Ecology, eds: S. Wich & A. Marshall. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Willie J, de la Pena E, Tagg N & Lens L. 2013. Effects of Abiotic Factors on Herbaceous Plant Community Structure: A Case Study in Southeast Cameroon. In: Wallner F (ed.), Herbaceous Plants: Cultivation Methods, Grazing and Environmental Impacts. Nova Science Publishers, ISBN: 978-1-62618-729-0.

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