Chimpanzee behavior

The Kanyawara chimpanzees of Kibale National Park were first studied systematically by Gilbert Isabirye-Basuta in the early 1980’s. They have been studied continuously since 1987, when Richard Wrangham established the Kibale Chimpanzee Project (KCP). Professor Wrangham and I are currently co-directors of the project. Our field team regularly collects basic behavioral, ecological and non-invasive physiological data on the 50+ chimpanzees that make up the Kanyawara community. Data from the beginning of the project to the present are maintained in a relational database in collaboration with Dr. Zarin Machanda (Tufts University). This database allows us to examine long-term patterns of behavior at Kanyawara, and can serve as a supplementary resource for graduate students planning new research projects at the site.

Research at Kanyawara covers a broad range of topics related to reproductive and life history strategies, and social relationships. Much of my current research is focused on patterns of aggression in relation to food availability, age, sex and endocrine status. I travel to Kibale twice per year in order to collect focal data on chimpanzee behavior, and to supervise long-term data collection. Field assistants from the chimpanzee project make daily observations, recording basic information about party composition, diet, health, ranging, social behavior and interactions with other species. Phenological data are collected twice per month from a trail established in 1988. These long-term behavioral, ecological, demographic, and endocrine data are permitting us to address complex questions about chimpanzee behavioral biology. Some current research questions include:

  • What is the relationship between dominance status, age, aggression and reproductive success in males and females?
  • How important are coalitionary relationships for male dominance striving?
  • How do patterns of female attractiveness influence male mating competition?

KCP occasionally has opportunities for outside graduate students with their own proposals and funding to pursue work with the Kanyawara chimpanzees. If you are interested, please contact me. We cannot normally offer opportunities for undergraduates or short-term visitors to do research with the Kanyawara chimpanzees.

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