Chimpanzees living in Gabon’s Loango African National Park are attacking and killing gorillas. According to a team of researchers from the University of Osnabrück and the Max Planck Institute this would be the first recorded case and would be the result of competition for food that is decreasing due to climate change.
Prior to these two clashes, the researchers observed nine occasions between 2014 and 2018 when chimpanzees and gorillas interacted peacefully and even fed together on the same fruit trees.
Chimpanzee vs. Gorilla, the death fight filmed in Africa
The harmony broke abruptly in 2019 when, on two occasions, chimps formed coalitions and attacked a group of gorillas for over two hours, leaving two dead newborn gorillas in the field. In the second episode, a gorilla cub was killed and almost entirely consumed by an adult female chimpanzee.
“It could be that the sharing of food resources by chimpanzees, gorillas and forest elephants in Loango National Park drives more competition and sometimes even lethal interactions. between the two great species of apes – said Tobias Deschner, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology -. The increase in food competition can also be caused by the more recent phenomenon of climate change and the collapse of the availability of fruit, as observed in other tropical forests of Gabon ».
The first lethal encounter, which lasted 52 minutes, was observed on February 6, 2019 and occurred after a territorial patrol during which the males made a deep foray into a nearby chimpanzee territory, the study published in Scientific Reports reads. A group of 27 chimps met a group of five silverback gorillas in a grove, and the first pack started yelling at the other animals. One of the gorillas charged a young female chimpanzee and shortly thereafter that specimen was surrounded by nine males and one female and started hitting him until he was put to flight.
Shortly afterwards, the researchers observed another very cruel scene: “Littlegrey (as a male chimpanzee is called) smelled a baby gorilla, placed it on the ground in front of him and struck it three times with his hand. right. He did not kill him, but left him dying on the ground complaining ». Then 25 minutes later that baby gorilla was passed on to three other chimps, and soon after that his moan was never heard. It was dead.
The second lethal attack, which lasted 72 minutes, was observed on 11 December 2019 by observation teams following a group of 27 chimpanzees traveling across the region. The attack began at 12:26 pm, when a chimpanzee named Freddy stopped short and let out a loud bark of alarm. Two minutes later, the chimps spotted a rustling tree in which a female gorilla was resting. The latter began beating her chest and screaming, and in less than a minute a group of other gorillas rushed up the tree to help her. However, the sight of four gorillas and two babies did not deter the aggressive chimpanzees, who began climbing the tree to attack.
All the gorillas fled except one female and her cub who started moving through the tree in hopes of evading their opponents.
At 12.50pm the female was seen climbing a nearby tree without her young and shortly thereafter a teenager named Caesar was seen holding the body of a dead newborn gorilla, who had a large open cut in his stomach with a partially protruding intestine. . A female chimpanzee partially ate a few pieces of meat.
“We are only at the beginning to understand the effects of competition on the interactions between the two great species of monkeys in Loango – explains Simone Pika of the Universität Osnabrück. – Our study shows that there is still a lot to explore and discover about our relatives. living areas and that this park with its unique mosaic habitat is a unique place to do so ».
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