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Distribution and Numbers of Pygmies in Central African Forests

Olivero, Jesús; Fa, John E.; Farfán, Miguel A.; Lewis, Jerome; Hewlett, Barry; Breuer, Thomas; Carpaneto, Giuseppe M.; Fernández, María; Germi, Francesco; Hattori, Shiho; Head, Josephine; Ichikawa, Mitsuo; Kitanaishi, Koichi; Knights, Jessica; Matsuura, Naoki; Migliano, Andrea; Nese, Barbara; Noss, Andrew; Ekoumou, Dieudonné Ongbwa; Paulin, Pascale; Real, Raimundo; Riddell, Mike; Stevenson, Edward G.J.; Toda, Mikako; Vargas, J. Mario; Yasuoka, Hirokazu; Nasi, Robert

Distribution and Numbers of Pygmies in Central African Forests Thumbnail


Jesús Olivero

John E. Fa

Miguel A. Farfán

Jerome Lewis

Barry Hewlett

Thomas Breuer

Giuseppe M. Carpaneto

María Fernández

Francesco Germi

Shiho Hattori

Josephine Head

Mitsuo Ichikawa

Koichi Kitanaishi

Jessica Knights

Naoki Matsuura

Andrea Migliano

Barbara Nese

Andrew Noss

Dieudonné Ongbwa Ekoumou

Pascale Paulin

Raimundo Real

Mike Riddell

Mikako Toda

J. Mario Vargas

Hirokazu Yasuoka

Robert Nasi


Pygmy populations occupy a vast territory extending west-to-east along the central African belt from the Congo Basin to Lake Victoria. However, their numbers and actual distribution is not known precisely. Here, we undertake this task by using locational data and population sizes for an unprecedented number of known Pygmy camps and settlements (n = 654) in five of the nine countries where currently distributed. With these data we develop spatial distribution models based on the favourability function, which distinguish areas with favourable environmental conditions from those less suitable for Pygmy presence. Highly favourable areas were significantly explained by presence of tropical forests, and by lower human pressure variables. For documented Pygmy settlements, we use the relationship between observed population sizes and predicted favourability values to estimate the total Pygmy population throughout Central Africa. We estimate that around 920,000 Pygmies (over 60% in DRC) is possible within favourable forest areas in Central Africa. We argue that fragmentation of the existing Pygmy populations, alongside pressure from extractive industries and sometimes conflict with conservation areas, endanger their future. There is an urgent need to inform policies that can mitigate against future external threats to these indigenous peoples’ culture and lifestyles.


Olivero, J., Fa, J. E., Farfán, M. A., Lewis, J., Hewlett, B., Breuer, T., …Nasi, R. (2016). Distribution and Numbers of Pygmies in Central African Forests. PLoS ONE, 11(1), Article e0144499.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 19, 2015
Online Publication Date Jan 6, 2016
Publication Date Jan 6, 2016
Deposit Date May 16, 2018
Publicly Available Date May 16, 2018
Journal PLoS ONE
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 1
Article Number e0144499


Published Journal Article (1.7 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2016 Olivero et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

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