Frank finally finds his voice

February 5, 2012

Frank has always been a troublemaker, from a young age preferring to hang out with his older brother Fred and the bigger boys, you could be sure anyone playing with him would end up getting more than they bargained for. His stocky frame and characteristic swagger are easily recognised especially as he’s the only young male chimp who managed to grow his hair into a mowhawk.. His image was almost complete with a rakish scar he pick up in a recent fight (giving him the temporary nickname of Frankenstein..) but there’s always been one big problem – his voice.

When all the other bigger males answer the distinctive loud long pant hoot call of the alpha male Nick, a chorus of calls echos through the canopy. Chimpanzee communities are rarely all in the same place at the same time, and different groups can be spread out over kilometers of their range. Pant hoots are the long distance vocalisations that the different parties can use to keep track of who is where in the forest and perhaps communicate information about things like where a particularly tasty fig is in fruit. The calls are also group specific, pant hoots from one community sound quite different to those of their neighbours – a useful way for them to keep tabs on each other.

When the Sonso pant hoots are ringing through the trees, as often as not there is one very squeaky little addition: Frank; definitely not doing much for his ‘big-man’ image. Still as he’s growing he’s getting more lung power and this morning when we thought we heard Fred calling it turned out to be Frank. With the last pieces of the puzzle coming together he’s well on his way into adulthood and one of our field-assistants’ top picks for the future alpha male – knowing Frank it’ll be an eventful journey; watch this space..

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