We are happy to report that Gremlin has given birth to her new baby! She was first seen with her infant the evening of August 15th. While we do not know the exact day of its birth (Gremlin had not been seen by researchers for the past five days), I suspect that it was very recent. Due to the new arrival, I spent the day today with Gremlin and her family. Both mother and infant are doing well, although Gremlin appeared to be very tired. Twice throughout the day she built a day-nest so that she could rest and nurse her infant. Gimli, Gremlin’s juvenile son, appears to be taking news of the new arrival well. While his mother was resting, Gimli spent his time either foraging nearby or playing with his older sister Golden. This birth is especially exciting since Gaia, Gremlin’s adult daughter, recently gave birth herself just two months ago. Thus, Gremlin has recently become both a new mother and grandmother.
This infant is Gremlin’s seventh baby. Her four surviving offspring are the adult female Gaia, sub-adult female twins Golden and Glitter, and juvenile son Gimli. While Gaia, Golden, and Glitter come and go, Gimli still spends all of his time with his mother. I expect life to get a lot more exciting for him in the next few months when he has a brand new playmate to spend his days with. It looks like Gremlin will soon have her hands full, but with the aid of her older daughters, I expect she will have a lot of support.
The Kasekela chimpanzees have been spending a lot of time in and around the border between their territory and that of the community to the north, the Mitumba community. Their attraction to this area seems to be the large number of Mbula trees that are still producing ripe fruit, while many other trees in the park have become less productive. The Kasekela community greatly outnumbers the Mitumba community. Currently, Kasekela has 14 adult males while Mitumba only has two. It is unclear how much information the two groups know about each other. However, these trips to the border offer a good opportunity for the chimps to monitor the behavior of their northern rivals.
I was lucky to catch Ferdinand in his characteristic pose on a day that I brought my camera into the forest. When the group is resting, he can frequently be found on his back with one leg crossed over the other, often with a hand behind his head. The song “It’s Good to be King” by Tom Petty always comes to mind when I see him in this position. He appears to simply be reveling in his status as alpha male of the Kasekela community.
So far, in the short amount of time I’ve spent at Gombe, I have seen quite a few hunts. While most hunts happen high in the tree tops, hidden behind dense vegetation, I recently snagged a prime viewing spot for one of these events, and it was quite a sight to see.
It was mid afternoon when I began hearing the alarm calls of Colobus monkeys high in the trees. The chimps evidently heard them too because many of the males quickly took off towards the sounds, leaving the females and less motivated males behind. When I got into position I saw about a half dozen Colobus high in a tree. Soon, I spotted Frodo, the group’s most enthusiastic hunter, beginning to slowly climb up the trunk. This caused quite an uproar up above.
One evening, after a long day in the forest, I set off to go for a swim in beautiful Lake Tanganika. Walking out the door in the dimming light of the evening, I immediately sensed that I was being watched. Looking behind me, I saw an adult male emerge from the side of my house, walking in my direction. At first I shrugged it off, just figuring he was on a stroll himself. However, nervously peering behind me every few steps, I noticed that his pace had quickened. My heart rate increased and I began walking faster as well. As he got closer and closer I finally stepped to the side of the path, thinking maybe he just wanted to pass me. That was when I realized that he was coming straight towards me. I put my towel and my beach bag between him and myself, the only defense I could think of at the time. Immediately, he grabbed the bag and ran. I had just been mugged…..by a baboon!
The air is pierced by the high pitched scream of Gimli, miscalculating his movement through the trees and nearly falling to the ground. Its 6:30 AM and the winds are unusually high. The chimps are up early, attempting to re-nest in a more sheltered location in order to get a few more minutes of sleep. Thus began my first day studying the chimps of Gombe National Park.
I spent the day following the G-family (Gremlin, her juvenile son Gimli, her adult daughter Gaia, and Gaia’ newborn infant) since we are all interested in the progress of Gaia’s new baby. It has now been six days since the birth, and, to our excitement, it does not appear that Gremlin will continue her past trend of taking Gaia’s infants. Gremlin’s different reaction to this birth may be due to the fact that she is pregnant herself and due to give birth in a few weeks. However, despite the fact that the infant is still with its rightful mother, it appears to be very weak. Two days after birth, infant chimpanzees normally have enough strength to hold onto its mother’s hair as she goes about her daily travels. However, Gaia is still traveling on three limbs, holding her baby to her chest with one arm.