From the Field Entry 5, Kara Schroepfer


On my first day out in the forest our little group of Makiwa, Ferdinand and Faustino was joined by a traveling party of ~ 5 chimps.  Most were adults but I got excited when I noticed a little fella and quickly confirmed it was Zinda, the younger brother of Zella.  Last year if Zinda was around that meant his mother, Trezia, was around which generally meant that older sister was around.  I am always excited when a young female comes to me, given that its somewhat of a rare occurrence.  However, I quickly ascertained that neither Trezia nor Zella were around.  This initially worried me because Zinda is only 6 years old and its rare for a six year old chimp to be traveling alone unless he’s lost his mother.  Nasibu assured me that Trezia was alive and well and I confirmed her presence myself a few days later when I found her high in a Mgwiza tree with none of her offspring in site.  Meanwhile sightings of little Zinda by himself were on the rise.  At the same time field researchers were also coming across him in the company of adult males.  On one particular morning he bounced around Kakombe Valley alternatively hanging out with the F males.  Early in the morning he was chilling with Frodo, then when Frodo moved on, Zinda went and found Faustino and then later in the day as Faustino headed south Zinda latched on to Ferdinand.  He seemingly didn’t care who he was traveling with as long as it was an adult male.  A few days ago Samwise and her mom Sandy returned to the group after an extended absence.  This excited the males and they kept close tabs on her throughout her first day back.  In and among this group of adult males was little Zinda.  When we first arrived in the morning Zinda was lounging in the tree with six other adult males looking right at home despite his diminutive size.  Its not all easy going for Zinda though, he desperately was looking for some grooming but all of the adults were busy with grooming partners of their own and had little time for  a young juvenile male that won’t make a good coalition partner for about six years.  This is not quite like Disney’s chimpanzee where a young male gets adopted by the alpha male after his mother’s death (If you haven’t seen it yet I recommend catching a showing!) but the Gombe males are somewhat accommodating to this wandering youngster.  They tolerate his presence and do slow down their travels a bit when he’s around but his decision to travel alone without his perfectly able mother is certainly strange!  For the moment, his motives elude us and it will be interesting to see how long he keeps this up.  In the meantime we’ll continue to speculate on why he’s suddenly  given to precocious wanderings.


About dukeprimate

About Kara Schroepfer: I’ll be spending the next 2.5 months on the shores of Lake Tanganyika studying the chimpanzees of Gombe. I’ve lived in East Africa before and have studied chimpanzees & bonobos in sanctuaries in Congo and baboons and Red Colobus in the field but never before have I seen or studied wild chimps nor have I been to western Tanzania. While here I will be following adolescent females to learn about female dispersal. Most female chimps leave their natal group when they reach maturity to reproduce in a neighboring group. However, some decide to stay, especially at Gombe. I will be gathering data to answer questions related to the behavioral, physiological and ecological changes that occur during dispersal and/or settlement into their adult communities. In the end, if all goes as planned, this will turn into my doctoral dissertation.
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