Predation on mammals by the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)

Abstract

With respect to prey selectivity and predation frequency, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) show local differences as well as diachronic variability within the same population. When data on predation from three long-term studies at Mahale, Gombe, and Tai are compared, some differences and similarities emerge; Mahale is more like Gombe than Tai in regard of prey selection but features of hunting at Tai with respect to predation frequency are not conspicuous. The most responsible factor for diversity in prey selectivity is a distinct “prey image” maintained by chimpanzees of different populations, although it is necessary to clarify in future studies why and how such tradition develops. Relative body size of chimpanzees to prey species and/or the degree of cooperation among members of a hunting party may explain the variability in prey size selected at each site, the latter influencing the frequency of successful hunts at the same time. Although various degrees of habituation and different sampling methods including artificial feeding might have obscured the real differences, recent data from the three populations do not seem to be biased greatly by such factors. Nevertheless, it is still difficult to make strict comparisons due to the lack of sufficient standardized data across the three populations on the frequency of hunting and predation. It is suggested that the size or demographic trend of a chimpanzee unit-group, especially the number of adult males included, necessarily influences its hunting frequency as well as its prey profile. It is also suggested that factors which bring these males together into a party (e.g. fruit abundance, swollen females, conflict between unit-groups etc.) strongly affect theactual hunting and kill rates. Other possible factors responsible for the local differences are forest structure (e.g. tree height), skilful “hero” chimpanzees, and competition with sympatric carnivorous animals. A total of at least 32 species have been recorded as prey mammals of chimpanzees from 12 study sites and the most common prey mammals are primates (18 species), of which 13 species are forest monkeys. Forest monkeys, colobine species in particular, are often the most common victims of the predation by chimpanzees at each site. We may point out a tendency toward selective hunting for the forest monkeys in terms of the selectivity of prey fauna among all three subspecies of chimpanzees, including populations living in drier environment. The mode of chimpanzee hunting seems to correspond to the highest available biomass of gregarious, arboreal monkeys in the forest, colobine species in particular. In contrast, bonobos (P. paniscus) are less carnivorous than chimpanzees, only rarely preying on a few species of small mammals. The sharp contrast of the two allied species in their predatory tendencies appears to have something to do with the differences in the structure of primary production between their habitats.

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Uehara, S. Predation on mammals by the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Primates 38, 193–214 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02382009

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Key Words

  • Chimpanzee
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Prey selectivity
  • Predation frequency
  • Mammalian prey
  • Forest monkey
  • Colobine monkey
  • Bonobo
  • Pan paniscus