Jambo the chimpanzee and the challenge for power
Think being a human is difficult? Try being a chimpanzee!
Upon recent visits to Twycross Zoo you may have noticed arguments amongst our chimpanzee community. We want to reassure you that all of our chimps are doing well and are always being closely monitored by our expert team. We also wanted to take the time to explain what is happening currently within our group of chimpanzees.
Life as a chimpanzee
Much like us, our close cousins revolve their life around socialising. Forging friendships, creating alliances and having the occasional spat is normal for chimpanzees and part of their complex social needs, and like us they rely on these relationships to thrive and indeed survive.
Chimpanzees live in a complex society and each community of chimpanzees will have a dominant male. This male will play a vital role in keeping the group settled as well as offering protection when needed. A bigger group is usually made up by smaller subgroups and these groups are constantly changing.
However, the leader isn’t a democratically elected one but a role won by some fighting and creating enough allies as back up, as well as being powerful and wise to convince all the rest of them to follow. The leader of the group can change and the challenge for this position usually comes from a younger, more virile male or a group of them.
Life as a chimpanzee at Twycross Zoo
We have spent years running an award winning rewilding programme for our chimpanzees and ensuring that they live in as natural environment as possible, with as close to normal wild behaviour. This was the drive behind our recently opened £3.5million habitat, Chimpanzee Eden.
Our chimpanzees were moved over to their new home around a month ago and have been settling in fantastically well and loving their new space, moving higher than they have ever been able to before on webbing made to move like real trees.
Jambo is our dominant male (you will recognise him as he is the one with no hair due to alopecia) and up until recently has gone unchallenged. He is a good leader and makes sure everyone stays in line but never gets too involved in the petty squabbles in the ranks underneath. You will see the females and subordinate males grooming Jambo as a pledge of loyalty to his role.
What’s happening with the TZ chimpanzees?
Some of the younger females in the group are changing their allegiance to one of our young virile males, Kibali. This attention is giving Kibali more confidence and a keen interest in mating. Jambo is not in favour of this and as a leader of the group tries to control the situation, which sometimes lead to clashes between the two males.
Challenges for power, although completely natural, are not for the faint hearted. It involves the challenging chimp working to ensure he has his back up in place (lots of bond forming with his chimpanzee pals) and then displaying aggressive behaviour to the dominant male. The extent of this can vary from lots of loud screaming and chasing around to the use of their strong arms and teeth to prove their power, which may create some injuries.
Recently Kibali and Jambo have been entering into this type of combat, with Jambo receiving some nasty looking wounds. Up until now Kibali has been unable to gain the control of the group but he might decide to try his luck again in the future. This is causing tension within the group from time to time while they are transitioning through a time of unrest at the top.
What do we do?
It is important that our chimpanzees are given the space and freedom to live as close to a wild situation as possible. This means foods they have to forage for, space to climb up and along, high places to sleep, freedom of choice to go outside, stay inside, to be seen by the public or not and most importantly to create their own hierarchy. If we were to get too involved in this process it could mean potentially training the chimpanzees to rely on human intervention or it could even elongate the issue. We have an amazing keeper team to take care of our animals, knowing when to intervene or not, and a very well trained on-site vet team, who monitor and treat injuries as required. Chimpanzees heal very quickly; we don’t rush in to treat injuries (which would require a full general anaesthetic) unless absolutely necessary but tend to let the wounds heal themselves where possible. So in general – we allow our chimpanzees to be chimpanzees!
Have more questions?
We have an amazing team of ape keepers and zoo rangers, all of who will be happy to answer your questions on your next visit and give you more insight into the fascinating world of chimpanzees, please do stop them and ask them more.
Meanwhile, please be reassured that, as always, we are keeping a very close eye on our animals and will always makes sure their welfare is at the forefront of everything we are doing.
Chimpanzee Eden is now open to the public and Twycross Zoo is open every day (except Christmas Day) from 10am. We hope to see you soon.