Saturday, June 13, 2009
One of the apparently unique behaviors exhibited by the chimps at Fongoli is a tendency to move around, forage and even travel extensively at night - especially during the dry season during a full moon. Last night I spent the night out with the chimps and, as usual, they didn't disappoint! They settled down around 7 or 7:30pm, when it got dark. Lupin, an adult male, actually made himself comfortable in Lucille's (adult female) nest, so she had to expand her side of it, and he eventually had to expand his side. Lucille's infant, Sounkaro, was also in the nest, but Lucille's juvenile son, Lex, had to make his own to the side. Still, a nice cozy scene.
It seemed like it was going to rain (Finally! The rains are about a month late.). I was wondering what in the world I would do since my camping gear consisted of a throw-away rain poncho and my regular day pack. It didn't rain though, and the chimps were quiet until about 11pm when the moon rose. There was some moving around, but they really started being active when the moon was at its brightest. At about 3:30 am, Tia, an adult female who is currently in estrus, built a new night nest not far from me. Awhile later, an adult male came to "visit" (i.e., copulate) and then built himself a new nest a few meters away from her.
About 4:45 am, the chimps got really active: There was plenty of social interaction, including male displays. Another male came to "visit" Tia. And, a number of individuals ate ripe Saba fruit, which is one of their most important food sources. Around 5:20 a.m., everyone rested until it got light, which is around 6 am these days. At this time, Dondo Kante arrived with James Ewen, the National Geographic cinematographer who is filming the chimps this year. The chimps rested for the next hour, and I left to go back to the village to get some rest and go to town on some errands (I really don't sleep much at night when I'm out with the chimps - between worrying a little about hyenas to waking up to write anything the chimps do at night).
So, our apparently lethargic chimps (according to a manuscript that Paco Bertolani and I have just submitted, Fongoli chimps rest significantly more than chimps elsewhere), are really just not studied enough at night. Something we'll have to include more of in the future!