All change at the top – again…

May 22, 2009

The disappearance of Bwoba earlier this year, which continued the worrying trend of adult male deaths in the Sonso community, has further exacerbated the power vacuum at the top of the male hierarchy. Our young sub-adults, who would normally be at the bottom of the heap, have been pushed into the limelight and are certainly making the most of their new found freedom to show off with wonderful displays of stomping, drumming and branch-shaking. Even the quiet Zalu and meek Kwezi have been strutting their stuff as they realise that sometimes now they’re the big man of the party. One particular individual who has made the most of this opportunity is Musa, the eldest son of the dominant female Nambi. For most of last year he was 4th after Nick, Zefa and Bwoba – and was frequently seen carefully observing the power struggles between the top three without ever committing himself to an alliance one way or the other. After Bwoba’s disappearance he moved up to 3rd place but then while his mother was in oestrus (possibly distracting the other adult males) he seized the moment and challenged Zefa for the number two spot. Following a week of aggressive displays, the experienced Zefa was seen to pant-grunt submissively to the much younger Musa! While we had always singled Musa out as a strong contender for future leadership, none of us expected him to take such a huge leap forwards for several years. As it stands, at only 18 he is now the beta male of the community, second only to the alpha Nick.

At the same time his eldest sister Nora has now become very sought after as she has finally become mature enough to interest the older males when she is in oestrus. She is currently in swelling and walks everywhere with an escort of doting younger sub-adult males with whom she occasionally deigns to interact. One apparent favourite of hers is the quiet young Zalu – and they are frequently seen grooming each other and even holding hands. Unfortunately it seems as though not everyone is so keen on the pairing, and her mother Nambi chases Zalu off when she finds them together. Clearly this shy young male doesn’t have the necessary requirements or ambition to be a suitable match for her daughter!

So while the rains have kept the chimps quieter than usual there is still enough political manoeuvring, illicit romance, and general entertainment to fill a bevy of Shakespearian melodramas. Certainly Nambi’s children are living up to their mother’s reputation and high expectations, and she still has young Night who as one of the strongest personalities in the group at only 6 years old is sure to have an interesting future ahead of her – we’ll let you know what happens!

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