This is the first report documenting the responses of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) to seismic activities. During our long-term fieldwork in Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania, a high-intensity earthquake with a Richter magnitude of 6.8 occurred at 15:19 hours local time on 5 December 2005. During the main tremor, the chimpanzees displayed the “wraa” call, “scream,” and “pant bark” or “bark” vocalizations. Many mild aftershocks followed the main tremor, and the wild chimpanzees displayed a variety of responses to these. In several cases, they climbed trees or stopped activities such as grooming, moving, and feeding. These responses are similar to those previously reported in nonhuman primates. During the observations, a unique behavior, one never reported before was exhibited by a female chimpanzee. She placed her right palm on the ground giving the impression she was inspecting the trembling of the ground.
Responses to seismic activityWild chimpanzeesEarthquakeAftershocksMahale Mountains