Melissa’s new baby

January 30, 2009

 

photo thanks to T

thanks to Thibaud Gruber for the photo

Just a very quick one to post our first picture of Melissa‘s new baby – everyone together now.. ahhhhhhhhh. The new mum is keeping a tight hold on the little one for now so we still don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl but we’ll let you know as soon as we do.

 

When our young alpha Nick muscled his way to the top position in the male hierarchy it was a definite victory for brawn over brains. Early on in his leadership his temperamental ways meant that there was a constant strain on the individuals around him who were never sure if he would suddenly turn on them for no apparent reason. At the same time, he seemed constantly in need of reassurance and lent very heavily on the practical and social experience of the previous alpha male Duane, who still commanded a lot of respect from the community.

Nick reached out to his former adversary Zefa

Nick reached out to his former adversary Zefa

When Duane died early last year we all considered Nick‘s days at the top to be pretty much numbered – he had very antagonistic relationships with the other adult males below him and even the adult females would at times challenge him and send him running off. Fascinatingly on the day Duane died, Nick and Zefa (the beta male) who had been constantly at odds for months previously, suddenly ‘made up’ and were found embracing and grooming each other. Nick clearly had plans to stay at the top and was willing to reach out to his former adversary to maintain his leadership!

Since that time the relationship between the top three males, Nick, Zefa and the younger Bwoba, has been a constant source of tension in the group: all three are closely matched and non of them are strong enough individually to take on the other two if they form an alliance. Last year Bwoba showed less ambition and was more likely to be recruited by either Zefa or Nick as their partner against the other, but he has started to act more in his own interests. In late November last year Zefa and Bwoba worked together to successfully push Nick out of the main group and control access to Nambi (the alpha female) when she was at her most fertile. As a team Zefa‘s skillful social manipulation of the other group members and Bwoba‘s sheer size seemed a perfect combination. However only a week later, when they tried a similar stunt over another female, Nick had clearly wised up to their tactics. Rather than taking them both on, he targeted the younger, less confident Bwoba who ended up switching sides to back Nick!

Bwoba has been devoting time to grooming Nick

Bwoba has been devoting time to grooming Nick

In December Nick seemed back on top; if only by the narrowest of margins. That month we found two members of the community (Kwezi and Janie) had been badly attacked with deep cuts to their backs. Neither attack was seen but the injuries closely resembled those of Zalu who was attacked by Nick earlier in the year. As someone with a history of inflicting bad bite wounds Nick was clearly in the frame, and we wondered if he was trying to re-establish his shaken authority. Only a couple of weeks ago Bwoba disappeared for a few days; on his return he was seen to have a finger badly slashed open. We’re not sure how this happened but since then he has devoted a lot of time to grooming Nick and seems to be deliberately avoiding contact with Zefa. So far Nick has managed to hang on to the position at the top, and has grown in social skill and confidence, but as Bwoba also grows in experience and with the constant threat of a challenge from Zefa 2009 is sure to be an eventful year!

Due to a series of recent publications which have documented the routes and risks of disease transmission between humans and wild apes, the effect of tourism and research on wild ape populations, like our chimps at Sonso, is one of the hottest topics around. We are therefor very pleased to announce that in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin the Budongo Conservation Field Station will be organizing a workshop on ‘The effects of tourism and research on the health of apes’. This is scheduled to take place in August 2009 in Uganda and is sure to spark some interesting debate on these critical issues. We will post more details on the dates and location once they are confirmed.

Melissa, who we found out was pregnant before Christmas has been seen with her new baby! They were seen together for the first time on the 14th of January and both seem to be doing well – as soon as we have a picture and some more info on the little one’s sex we’ll let you know, but for now our Budongo girls continue to do us proud – a great sign of a happy community.

New Year’s News

January 12, 2009

Hello and Na Mwaka Mpya Wenye Mafanikio! Happy New Year! 

We had a busy festive season at camp with lots of comings and goings as many of our researchers and staff visited family and friends over the holidays. All of this culminated in a big new years party with lots of eating, drinking and of course dancing (the last two may have been related – serious research into this is currently under way…). There have been comings and goings amongst our chimp community too with the arrival of a new female who rather confusingly looks very like Flora from the front and Rachel from behind; so it took us a little while to work out we had a newcomer! However she’s definitely been noticed by the males in the community and has been stirring up the tensions between the top ranking boys. 

Our other news is that the orphan infant whom we saw a lot of in December has been seen again and seems to be doing well. A tiny 4-year-old female, she turned up alone in November last year and seemed to slot straight into community life with little fuss. She was treated with great care and attention by many of the subadults; even adult males like Bwoba were seen to carry her when the group was moving in the high canopy. Her easy entry into community life and her strong resemblance to Pascal leads us to believe she may well be his little sister Polina – who is the only real candidate of the right age and sex within the community. Neither she nor her mother Polly had been seen for several years and, sadly, for her to be fending for her self at such a young age means it’s almost certain that Polly has died. The good news though is that she is doing extremely well, feeding and grooming with the other chimps, and has even been observed nesting alone. Check out the pictures below and let us know what you think!

Pascal

Pascal

the little girl we think is Polina

the little girl we think is Polina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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