Long-Term Studies of the Chimpanzees of Gombe National Park, Tanzania

  • Michael L. WilsonEmail author


The study of chimpanzees at Gombe National Park, which has continued for over 50 years, has yielded many discoveries that would have been impossible without long-term data. The basic data collection procedure has remained constant since the early 1970s, with a team of Tanzanian field assistants conducting all-day focal follows of individual chimpanzees in the Kasekela (1974–present) and Mitumba (1994–present) communities. Field assistants record map location and party composition at 15-min intervals and keep a continuous record of the focal subject’s feeding behavior and narrative notes on behavior, including mating, agonistic interactions, tool use, hunting, boundary patrols, and intergroup interactions. Field assistants have also monitored the unhabituated Kalande community since 1999. A relational database developed from these data provides a powerful tool for analyzing long-term patterns. Studies using this database in combination with new technologies have deepened our understanding of chimpanzee pathogens, genetics, hormones, tool use, hunting, meat sharing, social relationships, habitat use, dispersal, life histories, and demography. This chapter focuses on life histories and demography, followed by a section that highlights findings on two topics for which long-term data have proven especially informative: intergroup aggression and disease ecology.


Global Position System Male Reproductive Success Interbirth Interval Female Chimpanzee Chimpanzee Population 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Research at Gombe is conducted with the permission and support of the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology, the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, and the Tanzania National Parks. Over the past 50 years, numerous sources have provided funding for this research, including the Wilkie Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the Leakey Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, and the Jane Goodall Institute. The development of the relational database and studies of genetics and intergroup aggression have been supported by the National Science Foundation (DBS-9021946, SBR-9319909, BSC-0452315, IIS-0431141, and BSC-0648481), the Harris Steel Group, and the University of Minnesota. Research on SIVcpz was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (R01 AI50529, R01 AI58715, T32 GM008111, and K01HD051494) and the UAB Center for AIDS Research (P30 AI 27767). The Solar Electric Light Fund and the US Fish and Wildlife Service have contributed to infrastructure improvements. The health monitoring project has been supported by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, The Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, and the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology of Lincoln Park Zoo. Conservation efforts in the Greater Gombe Ecosystem have been funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Becky Sun assisted with artwork. Anne Pusey and Anthony Collins provided helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. Above all, the long-term study depends on the hard work of the field staff and visiting researchers at the Gombe Stream Research Centre, who have contributed countless hours to this enormously collaborative project.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Anthropology and Ecology, Evolution and BehaviorUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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