Tension at Gombe

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 1:51pm

In his latest blog entry, Dr. Deus Mjungu, Gombe Stream Research Center’s director of chimpanzee research, writes of tracking two chimpanzees at Gombe National Park.

For the past month or so, Faustino has been absent from the larger chimpanzee group. Today at around 5 p.m., Faustino, together with Schweini, Eliza, Pax and Mambo, came down to the camp area. While in the camp, whenever Schweini tried to walk away from the group, Faustino became uncharacteristically aggressive toward her. On two occasions, Faustino viciously attacked and wounded Schweini. No doubt, Faustino has a plan for Schweini.

Apart from the fact that she has some fresh wounds, Schweini also recently lost her baby. We observed Schweini and Faustino creating nests for the night in the hope that there would be further developments the following day.

The next morning, we arrived at the chimpanzee nests at around 6:28 a.m. Faustino emerged from his nest at 6:52, followed by Schweini at 6:57, and then Mambo and Pax at 7:02. We decided to focus on Schweini for the day.

Mambo and Pax didn’t stay long with Faustino and Schweini, possibly because Faustino was leading the group in a direction they didn’t like.

The drama between Faustino and Schweini began at 7:07 a.m. when Schweini wanted to climb a tree to eat msiloti leaves. Faustino bluffed and followed Schweini. When Schweini saw that she was being followed, she got scared, pant-grunted, screamed, and stopped climbing the tree. Faustino then led her northward. Schweini unwillingly followed. For the next four hours, Faustino limited the time Schweini could spend feeding and whenever Schweini showed signs of wanting to move away from him, Faustino intimidated her into staying.  

At 11:20 a.m., when Schweini and Faustino were well away from the core area of the Kasekela chimps, calls of the other Kasekela chimps came from the south. Schweini screamed and moved five meters toward the calls. Faustino bluffed and followed her. Schweini grinned, often a sign of fear in chimpanzees, and then screamed. Fortunately for Schweini, Faustino didn’t attack her. They stood up, stared south, and then traveled about 400 meters toward the calls before they stopped. Faustino then wanted to return north. Schweini resisted, but then followed. For the remainder of the day, Schweini and Faustino spent time away from the other Kasekela chimps.

How long will Faustino keep Schweini away from the other Kasekela chimps? Stay tuned!

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