Chimpanzees living in Africa’s Loango National Park in Gabon are attacking and killing gorillas that also call the region home in what researchers say is a first in the scientific community.
A team of scientists from the University of Osnabrück and the Max Planck Institute suggests two deadly attacks are the result of the animals competing for food that is declining due to climate change, researchers note in a press release.
Prior to the deadly incidents, researchers observed nine occasions from 2014 to 2018 where chimpanzees and gorillas interacted peacefully and even fed together in fruit trees.
Harmony came to a halt in 2019 when, on two occasions, chimpanzees formed coalitions and attacked a group of gorillas for a combined 124 minutes that ended with two young gorillas dead.
The second encounter ended with a dead, mutilated baby that was almost completely consumed by an adult chimpanzee female.
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On two occasions, chimpanzees formed coalitions and attacked a group of gorillas that ended with two dead young gorillas. And the second encounter (pictured) ended with a dead, mutilated baby that was almost completely consumed by an adult chimpanzee female
Tobias Deschner, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said in a statement: “The sharing of food resources by chimpanzees, gorillas and forest elephants in Loango National Park may lead to increased competition and sometimes even deadly interactions.” between the two great ape species.
“The increased food competition may also be caused by the more recent phenomenon of climate change and a collapse in fruit availability, as observed in other tropical forests in Gabon.”
The first deadly encounter, lasting 52 minutes, was observed on Feb. 6, 2019 and “came after a territorial patrol in which the males made a deep incursion into a neighboring chimpanzee area,” the study reads. Scientific Reports.
Pictured is a map showing where the deadly encounters took place in Gabon’s Loango National Park. in Africa
A group of 27 chimpanzees encountered a group of five silverback gorillas in a thicket, where the troop of chimpanzees started yelling and barking at the others.
This seemed to stir the silverbacks, with one falling on an adolescent female chimpanzee and “beating the air out of her.”
Then, two minutes later, a group of nine male chimpanzees and at least one adult female chimpanzee surrounded the silverback.
The chimpanzees started jumping up and down violently and hit the silverback who eventually escaped and returned to his own group.
Shortly after the mean encounter, the researchers saw an adult male chimpanzee named Littlegrey holding a baby gorilla while sitting on the ground, which was then inspected by three other chimpanzees.
The first deadly encounter (pictured), lasting 52 minutes, was observed on Feb. 6, 2019, and occurred after a territorial patrol in which the males made a deep foray into a neighboring chimpanzee area
“Littlegrey sniffed at the child, set it on the floor in front of him, and struck the child three times with his right hand. At the time, the gorilla baby was still alive because short beeps and whining noises were heard.
at 5:27 pm [25 minutes since the encounter began], and immediately after an emergency vocalization of the baby gorilla, the wail of another gorilla was heard nearby,” the study reads.
The child was then passed between two other chimpanzees, but stopped screaming at 5:53 p.m. and the scientists found his tiny body lying there lifeless.
The second deadly attack, which lasted 72 minutes, was observed on December 11, 2019 by observation teams following a group of 27 chimpanzees as they roam the region.
“Given the direction and stealthy behavior of the individuals present, including frequent sniffing of the ground and vegetation, a territorial patrol appeared imminent,” the researchers wrote in the study.
The event started at 12:26 p.m., when a chimpanzee named Freddy stopped and barked a loud alarm.
Two minutes later, the chimpanzees saw a rustling tree in which a female gorilla was resting.
When the gorilla saw the chimpanzees below, she started beating her chest and barking, and in less than a minute a group of other gorillas rushed up the tree to her aid.
A team of scientists from the University of Osnabrück and the Max Planck Institute suggests that two deadly attackers are the result of the animals competing for food that is declining due to climate change
However, the sight of four gorillas and two babies did not deter the aggressive chimpanzees, who began to climb the tree to attack.
All the gorillas managed to escape, except for one female and her baby, who began to move through the tree, hoping to avoid their opponents.
‘At 12:50 pm, the female gorilla (AF1), without her child (I1), was seen climbing a nearby tree, observed by several chimpanzees (Freddy, Gump, Louis, Mimi, Moana and Thea). She managed to escape through the roof,” the study said.
A minute later, an adolescent chimpanzee named Caesar was seen holding the body of a dead baby gorilla, which had a large open cut on the stomach and its intestines partially hanging out.
When a scientist took a closer look at the body, the spotted female chimpanzee ate small pieces of flesh from the dead baby gorilla’s limbs.