[monkeywire] Chimps Chow on Enemy Children
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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