Chimpanzees and gorillas go to war with each other for the first time ever

Until now, these species have not been known for their mutual hostility and have coexisted peacefully in many areas, so researchers were very surprised and saddened to find that they have decided to go to war.

Two independent clashes were observed in Loango National Park located in Gabon in 2019, both times the chimpanzees far outnumbered the gorillas and both times ended in the death of a young gorilla. In a new study documenting these fights, researchers shed some light on what might be causing the mutual aggression – a fight over territory, food, or something else entirely? – Our observations provide the first evidence that the presence of chimpanzees can have a deadly effect on gorillas. We want to better investigate the factors that led to these surprisingly aggressive interactions, explains Tobias Deschner of the Max Planck Institute.

The first clash took place in February 2019, involved 18 chimpanzees and 5 gorillas and lasted 52 minutes – the chimpanzees attacked the gorillas while returning from a trip to neighboring territories. The second took place in December and involved 27 chimpanzees (including some involved in the first attack) and 7 gorillas and lasted 79 minutes – again the chimpanzees managed to separate the gorilla infant from its mother and kill it (the remaining gorillas managed to escape). What is the reason for these attacks if they have not happened before? According to scientists, observing these two species is severely hampered because we have to give them a lot of free space and freedom, plus the gorilla population is small and inhabits an area that is difficult to study. Therefore, we may simply not have seen similar “riots” before, and perhaps they are more frequent than they appear.

But the two reported incidents occurred at a time of year when fruit is harder to come by and also has to be shared with elephants, which might suggest that it is all about sharing resources after all. So the researchers decided that they needed to take a better look and find out about the mutual attitudes of gorillas and chimpanzees, as well as other human species, because the survival of some of them depends on it: – We are just beginning to learn about the effects of competition on interactions between these ape species. Our study shows that there is much to discover about our closest living relatives and Loango National Park is the most diverse and unique place to do so, they add.

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