Pan, the hunted
“Robert, Robert, over?” It’s early morning in Kalinzu forest, western Uganda. The Vieillot’s black weavers sing as if it was their last song; the weather is cool; and the camp life awakes slowly. Robert is a chimpanzee tracker working for the Kalinzu Primate Research Project, led by Dr. Chie Hashimoto, assistant professor at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University. We connect with him from the camp via walkie-talkie to know whether he located the chimps already – and yes, he did. By recording with their GPS where they left the chimpanzees the previous day, the trackers have a rough idea of the area where they should look for.
Dr. Hashimoto, Mugisha – another chimpanzee tracker and I, start walking from the camp in the direction indicated by Robert. One hour and half later, we are deep in the young secondary forest, and Robert tells us that the chimpanzees just started hunting. My excitement overcomes the bites of the Dorylus molestus that invade our entire bodies. There is no red colobus in Kalinzu, and other monkey species (red-tailed monkey, blue monkey, and l’Hoest monkey) are supposed to be too fast for the chimpanzees to catch so, unlike other communities, Kalinzu chimps go for black-and-white colobuses. When we reach the scene, chimpanzees already circle a Ficus tree where a group of colobuses was feeding. Suddenly, I see a subadult male chimpanzee getting down the tree trunk… chased by a colobus vocalizing! Male black-and-white colobuses are quite imposing and very defensive so, chimps have better to watch out! In fact, the targeted preys are the white infant colobuses, but a successful hunt is rather opportunistic explains Dr. Hashimoto. This time the hunt lasts for 30 minutes, after which the chimps give up and move away on the ground. Over the past two days, the group attempted 3 times to catch a colobus but none was successful.
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