Jane Goodall Institute

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Feb 21, 2012

Termite Fishing At Gombe

Gremlin with her granddaughter
Gremlin with her granddaughter

During termite fishing season at Gombe National Park, chimpanzees spend a considerable amount of time searching for and extracting small, nutritious termites from their mounds. However, due to the insect’s small size, termite fishing requires a great deal of patience and hard work.

One day, Gremlin and her daughters, Golden and Glitter, were busy termite fishing much like other chimpanzee families.  Golden reached for a thin twig of budyankende and modified the twig by removing its leaves.  She then poked the twig into a termite mound.  The termite fishing seemed to be very rewarding.  Both Golden and Gremlin caught numerous insects with each poke.

While the termite fishing was taking place, Golden and Glitter’s babies were busy feeding.  The babies are currently being cared for by their grandmother. 

 After about an hour or so of termite fishing, Freud, Fudge and Fundi approached the G-family from a distance.  Freud displayed and, as a result, Gremlin and Golden stopped termite fishing.  They ran to Freud, signaling the end of the day’s termite fishing session.

Feb 3, 2012

Winter 2012 Update

Little Antonio, Tchimpounga
Little Antonio, Tchimpounga's newest arrival

In January, the first confiscated chimpanzee of the year arrived at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center. The chimpanzee was confiscated by authorities in northern Congo and lived with the local chief of police for a month before being transferred to Brazzaville Zoo. Staff at the Aspinall Foundation, an organization that works on gorilla conservation in the Congo, collected and cared for the chimp until he was able to be flown to Pointe Noire, where our team at Tchimpounga took over the permanent care of the little fellow.

We named him Antonio-“A” because he was the first confiscation of the year. We pray that he will be the last.

Tchimpounga's veterinary team immediately conducted a thorough exam of Antonio. He weighed in at five kilograms and was estimated to be one year old. The vets discovered that Antonio had parasites, which are very common when young chimps undergo stress and trauma. Antonio will be treated and tested regularly for the next three months while he is in quarantine.

Antonio’s new mom is Simone, one of our experienced caregivers. Simone will see Antonio through his first three months at the sanctuary. After that time, Antonio will start spending more time integrating with other chimps of the same age and size.  He will most likely join Lemba’s little group, which also includes Mbebo and Alex.

At Tchimpounga, Antonio will have a second chance at life and hopefully return to his native forest one day.

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Nov 22, 2011

The Mpapa Tree

A chimp eating from a Mpapa tree
A chimp eating from a Mpapa tree

Mpapa trees grow in the valleys and lower slopes of Gombe National Park in Tanzania. The trees are tall, up to 70 feet high, and typically possess one straight trunk. The fruiting season usually takes place between late March and the end of April. During a good year, mpapa is one of the most important chimpanzee foods. 

Like many chimp foods, the mpapa crop size varies from year to year. When it is plentiful, mpapa fruit provides the Gombe chimps with a reliable source of food during the spring rainy season. One spectacular tree near my hut in Gombe’s Kasakela Valley fruits from late March to the end of April. 

Mpapa is an incredibly useful tree for researchers because when it fruits, it is a great place to find chimps. Historically, mpapa was one of Fifi’s, Gremlin’s and Patti’s favorite trees.

The leaves of mpapa are palmate (hand-like) and the bark is rough and slightly grooved. It is easy to find the trees when they are fruiting because the chimps tend to break off entire branches in order to eat the fruit. They then drop the branches to the ground when they are finished feeding. The area below these trees is often covered with discarded branches. 

The black berries of the mpapa tree are about half the size of a grape and grow in clumps of three to six berries. Mpapa fruit has a tar-like consistency and tastes a bit like stale pumpkin pie. It is not a favorite fruit of mine, but I do eat it when I find that the chimps have dropped a branch of ripe fruit.

Chimpanzees will spend hours in a mpapa tree moving meticulously from berry bunch to berry bunch in search of ripe fruit. The chimps chew a number of berries at once then ball the fruit into a ‘wadge’ in their bottom lips. Presumably, this helps them break down the fruit so that it is more easily digested. 

Mpapa fruit is a favorite of young chimps because there is no tough husk, which makes it easy to access. The fruit is also spread throughout the tree so there is seldom heavy competition for a particular piece of fruit.

The Mpapa Tree
The Mpapa Tree
Berries of the Mpapa Tree
Berries of the Mpapa Tree

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