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Thursday, September 30, 2010
Mtoto Mpya Mwengine (Another New Child)
I was planning to write a blog entry about the G-unit (Gremlin, Gaia and their kids) but have delayed that to write about a recent exciting event with the F-family. (In a pun-like way, this entry focuses on one member of the G-unit).
I feel guilty focusing on the “G” and “F” chimps so much, but they are well represented in the community, well-habituated and well… full of personality and things to write about. For example, last year I also wrote an entry when Gremlin and Gaia gave birth to Gizmo and Google. But don’t worry, I will try to be original here and not use phrases like “PANparazzi” again.
My field assistant, Deo, was the first one to spot Fanni with her new baby. When I got the radio message I ran to him as fast as I could, being careful not to trip on rocks or roots on the trail along the way. I arrived to an amazing sight; I assumed the baby was not much more than 24 hours old because the umbilical cord was still hanging from it. All four of Fanni’s older offspring were all highly interested in the new baby and spent much of the time within close proximity to Fanni. (As usual with the Fs, everyone spent a lot of time grooming everyone.)
While the offspring spent plenty of time investigating and starring at the baby, Fanni seemed to have a strict “look but don’t touch” rule. We aren’t currently sure if the baby is a boy or girl, but even at this point some of the well-experienced Tanzanian data collectors have made predictions not only about the gender but also about the father. From the looks I have gotten at the baby during its first few days of life I am guessing it is a boy, but we won’t be able to assign paternity until we can collect a fecal sample from “him.”
Because I study play behavior, my biggest interest in the F-family is observing Fadhila. She is at her playing prime (infant chimpanzees play the most at around 2 years of age). But since she is currently being weaned, Fadhila has taken a break from playing and is spending more time foraging and keeping a close eye on mom so she catch still hitch a ride from Fanni (see below).
I definitely feel bad for Fadhila. At one point, Fadhila either tried to nurse or got too close to the new baby and Fanni hit/bit her and gave Fadhila a small cut underneath her eye. Regardless of the number of times I have seen infants/juveniles take “suicidal” jumps out of trees or get banged around during play, this was the first time I have seen an infant with any sort of injury. Fanni must be doing something right, though, because she is spitting out kids at a faster rate than any other mom. Most chimpanzee inter-birth-intervals are between four–five years, but Fanni just had a new baby, and Fadhila does not turn 3 until November.
Fanni definitely has a huge maternal workload with two dependent offspring. Currently, Fadhila will ride on Fanni’s back as the new baby grips tightly onto Fanni’s stomach. There is an obvious struggle, though, as I have seen Fanni unsuccessfully try to pull Fadhila off her back. I have also seen Fadhila grip Fanni’s shoulder hair with both fists and try to push Fanni forward as if to maneuver a spot on her back, but I assume there might have been a delayed response due to Fanni-fatigue.
All struggles aside, everyone seems to be doing very well and everyone looks healthy. While the new baby is not yet named, I have put in a suggestion for ‘Fifty’, since this year marks the 50th anniversary of chimpanzee research in Gombe National Park.
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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