[monkeywire] Chimps Chow on Enemy Children

Carrie McLaren carrie at stayfreemagazine.org
Wed Dec 31 14:04:58 EST 2003

31 December 2003

Monkeys make a meal of human babies
 From The Times
January 01, 2004

Chimpanzees struggling to survive amid the destruction of their 
forest habitat are snatching and killing human babies.

At least eight children have died in the past seven years in Uganda 
and Tanzania after being taken by chimpanzees and a further eight 
have been injured. The children were found with limbs and other body 
parts chewed off.

Primate experts blame deforestation and human encroachment on the 
chimpanzees' habitat for the aggressive behaviour, but are divided on 
whether the animals are defending their territory or seeking a 
replacement food source.

Chimpanzees were believed to be largely vegetarian until British ape 
expert Jane Goodall discovered in the 1960s that they are predatory 
animals who often hunt smaller primates in packs.

Further studies have identified striking similarities between chimp 
and human aggressive behaviour, including rape, wife-beating, murder 
and infanticide. Attacks on human young, however, are a recent 

The attacks in Uganda have been documented by Michael Gavin, a 
conservation biologist, in an eight-month study reported in the 
January edition of BBC Wildlife magazine. In one of the most recent 
fatalities, Jackson Alikiriza, a three-month-old baby, was snatched 
as he was being carried by his mother, Anet, while she harvested 

Mrs Alikiriza fled when she saw a chimp approaching but could not 
outrun the animal. She said: "It grabbed my leg and I fell. Then it 
took my baby." By the time help was summoned and the chimp was chased 
away by a man armed with a spear the baby's nose and upper lip had 
been eaten away. He died a week later.

Another chimp carried out several attacks until he was hunted down 
and stabbed to death by villagers.

Dr Gavin said the technique used by the chimps to kill or maim the 
children mirrored the way they tore apart other prey, suggesting they 
snatched the human young to eat.

"In most cases they bite off the limbs first before disemboweling 
them, just as they would the red colobus monkey which is one of their 
favourite prey," he said.

But Dr Gavin defended the chimps as simply trying to survive in the 
face of human expansion: "They are just trying to get by. If they 
can't get enough food in the forest they are going to wander out in 
search of what's available."

Until the 20th century Uganda boasted a chimp population of several 
million, but an 86 per cent reduction of forest has cut that number 
to fewer than 5000. As their habitat disappears so do their food 
supplies and that, combined with greater proximity to humans, has led 
them to discover that small children and babies are easily caught and 
a good source of protein, according to experts.

Frans de Waal, professor of primate behaviour at Atlanta's Emory 
University, said: "I am not sure these cases have much to do with 
territoriality. I think they rather have to do with predation. 
Chimpanzees hunt and eat monkeys. "It is especially the males which 
hunt. I don't think chimps mistake a human baby for a monkey. They're 
far too smart for such a mistake."

But Pan African Sanctuaries Alliance secretary Doug Cress said the 
attacks were the symptoms of a territorial "fear reaction" to being 
squeezed out of their natural habitats.

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