On the morning of October 8, 2012, Gombe field assistants saw Tanga with a new baby. They tried to alert others researchers in the field who were closer to Tanga, but before any of them could get a good look at the newborn, Sparrow tried to take Tanga’s infant with help from Sheldon, Sparrow’s son. Tanga screamed and Faustino ran to help her, displaying in such a fashion that Sparrow and Sheldon scattered.
We'd like to announce a new addition to Gombe! Glitter gave birth to a baby on May 30, 2012. Glitter has been quite elusive with her new baby, hiding with her newborn and avoiding encounters with other chimps, particularly her mother, Gremlin.
It normally takes time before a female chimpanzee fully introduces her baby into community life. Glitter, however, was nervous and unwilling to trust other chimps, seemingly an effect of having lost her first baby to her mother. Now that she is getting more comfortable with her mother and the other chimps, we have been enjoying the newest addition to the G-Family. The baby and Glitter are doing well and we wish them the best of luck!
Chimpanzees live in a fission-fusion society whereby members of a community can freely join or leave a group at any time. Food normally dictates whether individuals join or avoid a group. When availability of food is low, chimpanzees, especially females with their dependents, tend to avoid groups.
For the past three months, availability of food in the Kasakela community’s range has been good. This has made it possible for many mothers, including Fanni, to rejoin community groups. Fanni is one of Fifi’s daughters. Currently, Fanni has five offspring. Her male offspring include Fudge (15), Fundi (roughly 12), and Fifti (more than 2). Fanni’s two female offspring include Familia (roughly 8) and Fadhila (4). All of Fanni’s offspring are doing well, with Fudge and Fundi beginning to gain more independence from their mother.
At 31 years of age and with five offspring, Fanni is one of the most prolific mothers of the Kasakela community. Hopefully, Fanni will bear even more offspring than her mother, Fifi, who gave birth to eight chimps during her lifetime.
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.
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.
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