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Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Primates Wambea Wengine (Other Curious Primates)
The title applies to both the chimpanzees and myself. Chimpanzees are very curious creatures, as am I. When I’m in the forest, I enjoy the breaks from the daily routine provided by any forest anomalies that pop up. I recently discovered how the chimps are the same way.
During a recent follow I got caught in a downpour. In general, I’m not a big fan of the rain because it makes it more difficult to write on soggy paper, collect samples and record video. Luckily, when it rains hard the chimps just hunker down under or in trees to try to stay dry. We follow their lead, and I picked a great spot with a lot of cover to wait out the storm.
During the downpour a bush pig walked near us, getting not much more than 5 meters away. These are massive animals, and it was impressive to watch, but I was slightly on edge because they can charge if they feel threatened. This was closest I have ever been to one. (Just to give you some perspective, the chimpanzees will often climb up trees for safety if a bush pig is nearby.) Thankfully, it moved on as quickly as it arrived.
Later when the rain changed to a steady drizzle, the chimps carried on. After a short walk the chimps came across a bat in the tree. I guess Ferdinand, the current alpha male, didn’t know what to think and was shaking a branch at the bat. Some of the adolescent chimpanzees wanted a closer look and began to climb up near the bat. The bat wasn’t interested in making any primate friends but appeared to have difficulty flying due to the rain and was very slowly trying to climb away. With the chimps gaining on it, the bat eventually flew away to a neighboring tree.
The chimps then continued their journey and crossed a stream. I was already soaked from head to toe, so I did the only sensible thing; I followed my assistant’s lead and splashed my way right through the stream.
Finally, when the rain began to let up the chimps climbed up near Jane’s Peak (Jane’s Peak is a spot where Jane Goodall used to climb to watch the chimps from a distance before they were habituated. It’s a great place to find chimps, especially from hearing their vocalizations). The chimps had the right idea because not long after we arrived the sun came out and began to warm and dry off all our dripping bodies.
While all the chimps were sunning, relaxing and grooming, far below a boat drove by playing loud music. (I assume it was a group of people celebrating a wedding). It was a comical sight to watch the chimps stop what they were doing, including big ol’ Frodo, and stare down below as if they were trying to figure out what the noise was. We were hoping we would see some dancing from the chimps, but the closest thing we got were chimps playing.
I was excited to see that one of those chimps was Fadhila. I hadn’t seen her play since she was weaned by her mother, Fanni, when Fanni gave birth to a new baby. But it seems that she is shaking off the Fadhila-funk and is starting to resume being a happy, playful kid. This was great for me because this was my final time watching Fadhila this field season, and I love ending on a positive note.
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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