Updated: Oct 1, 2021
Hello fellow reader,
Today we would like to introduce you to our chimpanzee community, and show you what a typical day in the life of a chimpanzee looks like. We invite you to a thought experiment: Just imagine one night going to bed human and waking up as a chimpanzee in our Rekambo community. What would your day look like? What would you eat? and where would you sleep? Let's find out and explore a day in the life of a chimpanzee.
Chimpanzees are definitely early birds, starting their day at sunrise which is almost constant throughout the year in Gabon due to its close proximity to the equator. Their typical day starts around 6:30 am.
What’s the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning? Food of course! There is nothing better than a good breakfast. This is why chimpanzees often set up their nests close to a tree with the fruits they eat. It would be fair to say that most of their waking day revolves around food, which in Loango comprises more than 150 plant species and several animal species as well. Depending on the season, a chimpanzees’ diet mainly consists of fruits, leaves, seeds, pith, flowers, insects, and meat from monkeys, duikers, and tortoises. Furthermore, chimpanzees display innovative techniques to access difficult to obtain food sources like honey from underground bee nests (Estienne and colleagues, 2017a, 2017b, 2019; Moscovice and colleagues, 2007).
Chimpanzees employ a suite of cognitive mechanisms like classifying food trees, remembering the quantity and frequency of fruit production on those trees across years, and planning return times to the feeding trees with efficient travel between them (Janmaat and colleagues 2013, 2014, 2016). Chimpanzees spend almost a third of their day eating and foraging, and it is considered to be the most performed daytime activity. Apart from eating, grooming is another activity that they spend almost a tenth of their day on. Grooming serves both the practical purpose of removing dirt and parasites but also helps the group members to establish and maintain their special social bonds.
Bravo! you’ve successfully made it through half of the day, now it’s time to get some rest. Chimpanzees spend a good portion of their day sleeping or resting, in addition to the overnight sleep. With one exception…... infant chimpanzees! Who knows no rest and are active all day as opposed to the human infants who tend to sleep most of their day. On the majority of days, before building their nest for the night, there is usually another short trip in search of the evening snack if it’s not in the vicinity. After this last burst of activity, the chimpanzees then start deciding on their nesting location and build accordingly. They do this every single night in a different location!
So what we’ve given you so far is the typical account for a rather normal day. However, there are some special days where the male chimpanzees in the group (and occasionally some females and juveniles) may collectively decide to go on patrol. This behavior sometimes leads to an intercommunity encounter (either vocal or visual) with another community of chimps! During a patrol, chimpanzees quite literally surveil the outskirts of their own and nearby territories looking for signs of other chimpanzee communities in the area. They do so by examining feeding signs or smelling leaves and frequently used travel paths. However, this activity requires great caution, as the scouting mission might fail and they could be outnumbered and maybe even killed by the community controlling the area (Wilson and colleagues, 2014). In Loango, patrolling behavior varies in its frequency throughout the year and this behavior also varies across different field sites.
(*snapping finger*) You are back in front of your screen! How did you enjoy your day as a chimpanzee? Interesting isn’t it?
Yet, that’s all for now! But keep an eye open for new articles that will be published soon.
Based on the accounts of researchers working with the Rekambo Community in the Loango National Park on a daily basis.
Pruetz, Jill & Mcgrew, William. (2001). What does a chimpanzee need? Using natural behaviour to guide the care of captive populations.
Moscovice, L. R., Issa, M. H., Petrzelkova, K. J., Keuler, N. S., Snowdon, C. T., & Huffman, M. A. (2007). Fruit availability, chimpanzee diet, and grouping patterns on Rubondo Island, Tanzania. American journal of primatology, 69(5), 487–502. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajp.20350
Estienne, V, Stephens, C, Boesch, C. Extraction of honey from underground bee nests by central African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) in Loango National Park, Gabon: Techniques and individual differences. Am J Primatol. 2017a; 79:e22672. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajp.22672
Estienne, V., Mundry, R., Kühl, H.S. and Boesch, C. (2017b), Exploitation of underground bee nests by three sympatric consumers in Loango National Park, Gabon. Biotropica, 49: 101-109. https://doi.org/10.1111/btp.12354
Janmaat, K.R.L., Ban, S.D. & Boesch, C. Taï chimpanzees use botanical skills to discover fruit: what we can learn from their mistakes. Anim Cogn 16, 851–860 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-013-0617-z
Janmaat, K., Polansky, L., Ban, S., & Boesch, C. (2014). Wild chimpanzees plan their breakfast time, type, and location. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111, 16343 - 16348.
Janmaat, K.R., Boesch, C., Byrne, R., Chapman, C.A., Goné Bi, Z.B., Head, J.S., Robbins, M.M., Wrangham, R.W. and Polansky, L. (2016), Spatio-temporal complexity of chimpanzee food: How cognitive adaptations can counteract the ephemeral nature of ripe fruit. Am. J. Primatol., 78: 626-645. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajp.22527
Wilson, M. L., Boesch, C., Fruth, B., Furuichi, T., Gilby, I. C., Hashimoto, C., Hobaiter, C. L., Hohmann, G., Itoh, N., Koops, K., Lloyd, J. N., Matsuzawa, T., Mitani, J. C., Mjungu, D. C., Morgan, D., Muller, M. N., Mundry, R., Nakamura, M., Pruetz, J., Pusey, A. E., … Wrangham, R. W. (2014). Lethal aggression in Pan is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts. Nature, 513(7518), 414–417. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13727