Responses of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) toward seismic aftershocks in the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania


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.

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We thank the Tanzanian Commission for Science and Technology, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, Mahale Mountains Wildlife Research Centre, and Tanzania National Parks for permitting this research and for their support while we were in Tanzania. We also thank Toshisada Nishida, Michio Nakamura, Shiho Fujita, Kazuhiko Hosaka, Noriko Itoh, Tetsuya Sakamaki, Eiji Inoue, and Watongwe research assistants and other colleagues of the research team for their support in various ways. We are indebted to Toshisada Nishida, Hideko Takeshita, Takahisa Matsusaka, Nancy Krusko, Kymberley Anne Snarr, and William C. McGrew for their useful suggestions on an earlier version of this paper. This study was financed by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (Basic Research A1, no. 16255007 to Toshisada Nishida).

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Correspondence to Mariko Fujimoto.

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Fujimoto, M., Hanamura, S. Responses of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) toward seismic aftershocks in the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania. Primates 49, 73–76 (2008).

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  • Responses to seismic activity
  • Wild chimpanzees
  • Earthquake
  • Aftershocks
  • Mahale Mountains