Food As a Cultural Aspect of
Like with us
humans, a chimpanzeeís diet varies depending on where they live.
Think about it; people in India tend to eat spicier food than people
who live in North America. Chimpanzees are similar to us because
their diet changes based on where they live.
a chimpís diet is not only based on where they live but also on
the culture to which they belong.
chimpanzees that live in the Western parts of Africa use rocks to
break open nuts, but chimpanzees in Eastern Africa do not practice
such a skill. Young chimpanzees learn to collect food by watching
and imitating their mothersí behaviors. Each generation learns from
older individuals which leads to a difference in collection
techniques between regions. Like the chimpanzees found in
Gombe as well as the Mahale K group, one of the two groups found in
Mahale, have been seen fishing for termites with twigs! But, the Tai
and Gombe chimpanzees also fish for and eat driver ants, which the
Mahale groups usually avoid.
interesting thing about chimpanzee diets is that some populations
use different tools or techniques based on the area in which they
live in. For example, chimpanzees in Gombe climb a palm tree in
order to obtain a food item known as a palm nut. While others found
in the Tai forest and Bossou, the Western part of Africa, use a rock
as a hammer and another as an anvil to open coula nuts.
meat like many humans, and depending on where they live--Western or
Eastern Africa--they will
hunt differently. The chimpanzees found in the Tai forest hunt adult
Red Colobus monkeys, where as the chimpanzee in Gombe or Mahale will
hunt juveniles (the younger monkeys). The chimpanzees in Western
Africa will also hunt together and share the meat more often than
their cousins in Eastern Africa. In addition, only the Tai forest
chimpanzees have been seen to eat the bone marrow (the inside of the
bones of their prey) from their kills.
There are many
reasons why these differences can be seen; one being the Chimpanzees
habitat. In the Ivory Coast, there is a well-developed canopy to the
forest, and monkeys may escape chimp predators by climbing high into
the trees. In this kind of situation only cooperative hunting would
be successful. However, in Gombe and Mahale the forests are not as
dense. Not only would habitat be cause for a difference, but also
the behavior of the prey would require different hunting tactics. In
the dense forests the monkeys can escape more easily, but in Gombe
or Mahale the monkeys take a stand and fight approach and so adults
are more aggressive than juveniles.
chimpanzees are similar to us is that they will use certain plants
for medicinal purposes! Chimpanzees will eat a long vine which has
purple flowers called Aspilia in order to cure worms, parasites,
and abdominal pain. Think about it; you have probably used plants
for medical reasons. A common one is Aloe Vera, which is used to
help soothe burns. What is interesting is that humans living in the
same area will often use the same plants to treat anything from
stomach problems to parasitic infections! Most of the time
chimpanzees will also avoid eating these medical plants as part of
their daily diet and eat them only when they are feeling ill.
Like how we would not take Tylenol unless we have a headache.
Animals tend to avoid medicinal plants unless they need them as
While, there are
plants with medical purposes found in different locations; there are
a few chimpanzee groups that have access to different kinds of
medical remedies outside of their native location. The chimpanzees
found in Uganda eat the dirt in order to self-medicate themselves
against malaria, an infectious disease passed by mosquitoes.
However, the dirt alone is not enough; the chimps also consume the
plant Trichilia Rubescens, which contains the malaria medicine, that
mixes with the dirt and effectively protects them against malaria.
But, this particular plant is only found in Western Africa, so Gombe
and Mahale chimpanzees do not use this plant as medicine.
Message from CAC'ers
When we were trekking through the African
jungle in Tanzania we noticed that in Mahale there were few
chimpanzees in trees, but when we were in Gombe we saw many
more chimpanzees up at the top of palm trees. We also tasted
some of the same foods that chimpanzees eat. One was an
extremely sticky and sour fruit that tasted like a mix
between an orange and a lemon!