Chimpanzees are observed killing gorillas (and climate change could be to blame)

A research team from the University of Osnabrück and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has observed for the first time lethal attacks of chimpanzees against gorillas in the wild.

The Loango National Park, Gabon, it is home to chimpanzees and gorillas of the western lowlands. Chimpanzees are undoubtedly the most belligerent among apes (other than humans) but for most of the time the park project has been watching and monitoring them.

“Until now, chimpanzee-gorilla interactions have been considered relatively relaxed”says Simone Pika of the University of Osnabrück in a statement. “We have regularly observed both species interacting peacefully in trees in search of food. Our colleagues in the Congo even witnessed amusing interactions between the two great ape species.”

Two years ago, everything changed

A couple of years ago researchers began to listen the type of screaming usually associated with a hostile encounter between two groups of chimpanzees. “So we heard chest beats, a display characteristic of gorillas, and we realized that the chimps had encountered a group of five gorillas.” The fight lasted 52 minutes.

Months later, this type of conflict continued to occur.

A baby who was separated from his mother was killed. Another baby gorilla was eaten by a chimpanzee.

Naturally, the authors of the article are anxious to know why the attacks happened and also why they are happening right now. The authors suspect that it is not a coincidence that Gabon’s forests have started to bear less fruit in response to climate change. They will now investigate in more detail whether this behavior is due to competition for food or to declining productivity of the rainforest caused by climate change.

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