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JUMBO the hairless Chimp Fight For Power. watch

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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.




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