During the past three months, PhD student Evy van Berlo, master student Daan Lameris and bachelor student Berta Roura Torres have observed the social, emotional behaviours of a small group of wild chimpanzees living in the Gishwati Forest Reserve in Rwanda. Conservation of this small but beautiful and recovering forest is the main aim of the Forest of Hope Association and I am very grateful that colleague researchers Karline Janmaat, Aaron Rundus and Rebecca Chancellor put me into contact with its national coordinator, Thierry Aimable, who has kindly hosted us. With the indispensable help of a group of excellent chimpanzee trackers, my students managed to observe many interesting things! A new infant was discovered and named “Tamu”, which means sweet or tasty, if I remember well, but which was actually inspired by the brand name of the most favorite peanut butter that was used during breakfast. Berta observed ear-licking just prior to copulation, Evy noticed that the frequency of alarm calls decreases over time and Daan found out that one of the chimps has six fingers. All the data still needs to be inserted in a data-file and analysed, but these anecdotes trigger my curiosity to learn what’s really in the data! In November, my students will present a scientific poster on their first findings at the Dutch Behavioural Biology Meeting and at the annual meeting of the Cognition, Behavior & Evolution Network and Berta is preparing a blog, so stay tuned!
Funding for this project was received from the Royal Dutch Academy for Sciences (KNAW) Ecology Fund