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Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Mtoto Mpya (New Child)
My latest two follows on Gremlin (mom) and Gimli (son) definitely qualify as Chapthi days (if this doesn’t make any sense, then you have some catching up to do on my blog entries). My goal is to follow one mother-infant pair from nest-to-nest for two days straight. This is done to cut down on search time and allows me to examine how behaviors on day one influence stress hormones in feces and urine on day two. These recent follows were so great because I was able to see Gremlin’s new baby (only 1 week old), we traveled very little and I was able to get plenty of fecal samples.
For a while, Gremlin has been looking like she was going to explode from being so pregnant. And then on August 13, Lisa O’Bryan and Amari, her field assistant, noticed Gremlin was carrying her new arrival. After I had finished my data collection, I returned to the field with my camera to snap a few photos of Gremlin with her new baby. But as you can see from the photo, Gremlin does a good job at blocking her baby from the PANparazzi (Pan is the genus name for chimpanzees). Even more exciting is the fact Gremlin’s daughter, Gaia, gave birth two months ago as well, and the two are often seen near each other.
As I tried to describe in my chimpercise blog entry, on a typical day the chimpanzees (and I) walk up and down through numerous valleys and spend a large percentage of that time in the machaka (dense undergrowth). However, since Gremlin was a new mom (and I assume very tired from the recent birthing process), she spent a large amount of time resting on the first day of observation. The second day she was much more active and joined up with a small group of chimpanzees, but these two days were by far the least-traveled observation days I have had. My legs enjoyed every minute of it!
One of the things I am interested in is how play is related to stress, and I am comparing levels of play with stress hormones found in feces and urine. I try to collect every sample I can from the infants. Because this is the dry season, during the day I am able to pipette urine samples off the leaves on the ground, but I am able to collect much more urine by catching samples first thing in the morning when the chimpanzees are unnesting.
My equipment includes a grocery bag wrapped around a Y-shaped stick to catch the urine and a baseball hat to protect myself from the falling contents. While I was able to collect multiple fecal samples and one urine sample from Gimli during each day of my follows, I did have one humorous catch on the second morning. I was all set-up to catch a urine sample and was well positioned for collection. Just as Gimli had begun to relieve himself, and I was catching the urine on the plastic bag underneath the tree he was in, he then deposited a fecal sample, which landed unexpectedly on the bag as well. I almost felt like a lacrosse player for a moment. Unfortunately, this meant that the urine sample was not usable because I try to avoid any cross-contamination. However, I was able to carefully take a fecal sample for the top portion that had not touched the urine.
Gombe Field Diaries
Lincoln Park Zoo is partnering with the Jane Goodall Institute to study and conserve chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, the site of Jane Goodall’s groundbreaking research. Our Gombe field diaries feature updates as scientists monitor chimpanzee health, study ape behavior and experience life in Gombe.
As director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lonsdorf leads Lincoln Park Zoo efforts in Gombe National Park.
Rachel Santymire, Ph.D.
An endocrinologist in the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, Santymire studies stress and reproduction in Gombe's chipmanzees.
A graduate student in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago, Matt is studying how levels of play in Gombe¹s chimpanzees influence stress, development and reproductive success.
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