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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: July 2015

6 - The real chimpanzee


The ‘F’ family is the most famous dynasty of chimpanzees from Gombe, as Flo, the old and successful matriarch, and her 5-year-old daughter Fifi were made world famous thanks to Jane Goodall's book In the Shadow of Man. The daughter, Fifi, became the most successful mother among the Gombe chimpanzees and her two oldest sons were long-lasting dominant males in the group. Frodo, the second, was the most eager and brave hunter when I followed them in the early 1990s to understand the difference in hunting strategies from those used by Brutus and consorts in the Taï forest. Frodo was also physically outstanding as one of the largest and heaviest males that ever lived in Gombe. Because of his status as the keenest of the hunters, I followed him most of the days during my stay in Gombe. One day in April, while with four chimpanzees, we heard Frodo screaming in the direction of a group of red colobus monkeys. We were high up on the hills, where we had a perfect view of the whole valley and the Tanganyika Lake glowing below us in the sun. The dominant male, Wilkie, charged under the colobus monkeys followed by the others. The group of about 20 monkeys was isolated in a large tree in the grassland with, as their only escape route to head back into the forest, two smaller trees side by side. My Taï chimpanzee eyes recognized a perfectly easy hunting situation. However, Frodo continued screaming, as he climbed two metres in the tree of the monkeys and looked at them without approaching, whether out of fright, I don't know. The other chimpanzees just sat, waiting and looking at Frodo. Immediately, two large male colobus, balls of fur with all hairs on end and aggressively screaming, charged at Frodo.

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