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Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Fruit of the Month
Gombe sometimes feels like those gift packages where you can tell which month it is by which fruit you receive in the mail. Following chimpanzees here means that you’re also following whatever fruit is ripe at the time. As the seasons change, the chimpanzees switch to a different fruit as their main food. When I arrived in November, it was mostly mabungo makubwa. Right now, we’re nearing the end of the budyakende, shown in the photo below.
They’re yellow-orange when ripe and quite delicious. Unfortunately, the edible part is small and mostly water, which tends to decrease party size for the chimpanzees. They stay in smaller groups, and females in particular spread out to make sure they can get enough food for themselves. This can make finding individuals frustrating; there are days when Amri and I have searched for over 10 hours without hearing a single call.
In addition to impacting the size of the parties, the abundance of specific fruits in certain valleys draws more individuals to these parts of the park. For instance, the chimpanzees would practically race through Kidihi Valley during the long rains because it lacked food to hold their interest. Now, with budyakende having ripened, they’ll stay for hours at a time, foraging and moving quickly to the next patch when they can’t find any more.
Unfortunately, my targets spending more time in Kidihi also means I have to contend with vines that have far more thorns than those of other valleys. Budyakende has come to be synonymous in my mind with needing Neosporin when I get home! But soon enough, a new fruit will ripen, and I’ll have a whole different set of obstacles to grapple with. I can only hope they’ll be a little less painful!
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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