Spring has sprung and a young males thoughts turn towards - displaying!

Spring has sprung and a young males thoughts turn towards - displaying!

#Taronga Zoo Sydney

Posted on 25th October 2010 by Media Relations

It has been a while since I have blogged re our Chimp


community but the interesting politics continue on a day to day basis.



We keepers are always busy but I’m always on the lookout for


things that will be of interest and over the past couple of weeks there have


indeed been a few. Male chimpanzee Chimbuka



There has been a huge increase in dominance displays amongst


the males, and the power politics is continually and rapidly shifting. One


afternoon will see Lubutu very confident and dominant over Shabani and Chimbuka


while the next morning will see Chimbuka full of bravado subjugating all in his


path. Shabani as always makes the most of his opportunities. The grooming


patterns also are constantly shifting literally from hour to hour. We will see


Lubutu and Chimbuka grooming at say 2 pm and then at 3pm see Shabani and Lubutu


grooming and then next day Shabani and Chimbuka. Why? Your guess is as good as


mine. Perhaps the advent of Spring with longer and warmer days leads to males


feeling better about themselves and this leads to displays. Remember, males


display because they are feeling GOOD not BAD. One standout of these goings on


has been nine year old Samaki. He is rapidly reaching that point of his life


where his physical capabilities are catching up with his ego and this is no


good thing for all the females in the community. On more than one occasion over


the last couple of weeks, have I, while responding to the screams of females


been confronted with the sight of a foreign adult male in our midst? No, this


is just Samaki all hackled up and looking mightily impressive as he torments


community members. My, they grow up so fast.



Recently we have again been reminded and impressed with the


sophistication of Chimp politics. As I have constantly stated it is not enough


to be the biggest baddest individual on the block, status within a Chimp


community is built on a combination of domination and good will. Something that


our current Alpha male has in spades with our females. Last week as the


fluctuating ebb and flow of dominance went against him with Shabani and


Chimbuka teaming up against him, it was the community’s females that came to


his rescue with several dominant females leading a charge against  Lubutu’s adversaries.



The fact that members of this female posse included


individuals that have suffered intimidation from Lubutu themselves just goes to


show how Chimpanzees can grasp the bigger picture:



The two remaining incidents that I wish to share with you


are indicative of why all who work with Chimps are so enamoured and amazed with


their capacity to understand things.



In this past week my colleague, Richard, observed that one


of our infants, two year old Sembe, had managed to get herself tangled in a


rope loop on exhibit. Naturally she freaked, and her screams brought her mother


Shiba quickly to her aid. Shiba managed to free Sembe from the loop and then


took her down to one of the platforms and comforted her there. Once Sembe was


reassured Shiba climbed back up the rope and bit the offending loop, there


cutting it and alleviating the danger. Simply breathtaking empathy and


awareness. The current alpha male Lubutu.




My most recent experience was when I was giving one of the


adult males, Shabani, a treat of sweetened tea squirted from a syringe. As


always the younger juveniles are incredibly interested in this stuff and always


try to interfere. Six year old Shikamoo managed to get his finger through the


mesh and jerked the syringe causing the tea to be sprayed onto Shabani’s face


rather than in his mouth. This is something keepers fear as we do not wish that


taking liquids from a syringe becomes a negative experience as this method of


delivery is very valuable for delivering medication. So what did Shabani do? He


wiped the tea of his face and then turned and slapped Shikamoo on the back. My


interpretation: he understood, Shikamoo was at fault, not me, not the syringe.



It is these moments that keep us primate keepers passionate


about our animals day in day out.



Allan



Chimpanzee Keeper