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Monday, July 12, 2010
Kwa Kawiada (Usually)
When I’m in the forest I usually try to follow mothers and infant chimpanzees for two consecutive days every month and also for four consecutive days once during my field season. This means that in addition to snapshots of chimpanzee behavior, I also get a fairly accurate idea of their daily routine. And Carson Murray was right when she told me that the females especially have patterns.
During my first four-day follow, I was observing Sandi and her kids Siri and Samwise. First off, it was an amazing sense of accomplishment to be able to complete this feat. But also, it was amazing how much it was like watching a rerun of your favorite sitcom. Over the course of the follow, Sandi had the usual pattern of leaves for breakfast, small fruit called mshai shai for lunch and then leaves for dinner. She was usually in similar locations for the same meal over the different days. Also, on the third day she even nested within 50 meters of her nesting site from the first day.
Sandi is not alone with having a routine. When I have been trying to find Gremlin or Gaia (two other chimpanzee mothers) recently, I have just looked in palm nut trees or fig trees where they have usually been seen lately. And with some knowledge of what is fruiting, a little patience and a tiny bit of luck, I have been very successful at locating and keeping track of the mothers and infant chimpanzees.
Not only do the chimpanzees usually have a routine from one day to the next, but it can go as far as revisiting a hotspot for food. While I was following Gaia the other day, she visited the same fig tree three times in the same day!
Usually when the chimpanzees eat fruit, they forage the exact same way that you or I would select fruit from a produce market. The chimpanzees will sniff the fruit and gently squeeze it with their hands in search of which fruit is ripe and edible (the picture below shows Gremlin smelling a fig to see if it is stomach-worthy). And while the chimpanzees might usually do the same thing from the previous day, it never gets boring!
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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