Chimpanzees in Tanzania
Photo of a pair of young chimps in the Mahale Mountains National Park in Tanzania by monojussi on Flickr.
Extinction Countdown: A chimpanzee apocalypse in Tanzania? (Scientific American)
Tanzania’s chimpanzee population has plummeted by more than 90 percent, from 10,000 a few years ago to just 700 today, according to a report from the Tanzania National Parks Authority. The Parks Authority blamed disease and predation — by humans and other mammals — for the dramatic losses. The country’s chimpanzees are located in just two habitats, making them highly susceptible to population-destroying illnesses.
The August, 2008, issue of the American Journal of Primatology reports results of a year-long study of chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains National Park which produced evidence that chimpanzees are becoming sick from viral infectious diseases they have likely contracted from humans. Molecular, microscopic and epidemiological investigations demonstrated that the chimpanzees living at Mahale Mountains National Park have been suffering from a respiratory disease that is likely caused by a variant of a human paramyxovirus. See also Newswise: Researchers Find Human Virus in Chimpanzees
Through detailed observations of Tanzanian apes, Jane Goodall revolutionised our knowledge of chimpanzee behaviour.
Fifty years ago, a slender young Englishwoman was walking through a rainforest reserve at Gombe, in Tanzania, when she came across a dark figure hunched over a termite nest. A large male chimpanzee was foraging for food. So she stopped and watched the animal through her binoculars as he carefully took a twig, bent it, stripped it of its leaves, and finally stuck it into the nest. Then he began to spoon termites into his mouth.
The Gombe Stream Research Center was founded in 1965 to advance Jane Goodall’s revolutionary findings about chimpanzee tool-making and other behaviors.
It also is a living laboratory, home to the world’s most studied group of wild chimpanzees. The Center’s mission is to operate a world-class research station in which the best available methods are used to continue and further develop the long-term primate research projects begun by Dr. Jane Goodall, and to advance basic science, support conservation, and train Tanzanian scientists.
Dr. Jane Goodall first traveled to Tanzania in 1960 at the age of 26 with no formal college training. At the time, it was accepted that humans were undoubtedly similar to chimpanzees—we share over 98% of the same genetic code. However, little was known about chimpanzee behavior or community structure. At the time she began her research, she says “it was not permissible, at least not in ethological circles, to talk about an animal’s mind. Only humans had minds. Nor was it quite proper to talk about animal personality. Of course everyone knew that they did have their own unique characters–everyone who had ever owned a dog or other pet was aware of that. But ethologists, striving to make theirs a “hard” science, shied away from the task of trying to explain such things objectively.”However, her research eventually proved just that—the intellectual and emotional sophistication of non-humans, chimpanzees in particular. With the support of renowned anthropologist Louis Leakey, Dr. Goodall set up a small research station in Gombe Stream in hopes of learning more about the behavior of our closest relatives. There she spent months tracking the elusive chimpanzee troops, particularly the Kasakela chimpanzee community, and observing their daily habits until she was slowly accepted by one troop and was allowed rare and intimate glimpses into chimpanzee society
The Kasakela chimpanzee community is a wild Common Chimpanzee community that lives in Gombe National Park near Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania. The community was the subject of Dr. Jane Goodall’s pioneering study that began in 1960, and studies have continued ever since. As a result, the community has been instrumental in the study of chimpanzees, and has been popularized in several books and documentaries. The community’s popularity was enhanced by Dr. Goodall’s practice of giving names to the chimpanzees she was observing, in contrast to the typical scientific practice of identifying the subjects by number. Dr. Goodall generally used a naming convention in which infants were given names starting with the same letter as their mother, allowing the recognition of matrilineal lines.
Video — Chimps Hunting in Trees — National Geographic Many primates are vegetarian, but not these chimpanzees in Tanzania, as a group of colobus monkeys finds out.