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article imageChimpanzees invade, kill neighbours for resources and territory

By Igor I. Solar     Jun 23, 2010 in Science
Chimpanzees expand the limits of their territory and gain access to food resources at the expense of the lives of their neighbours, primate behavioural scientists reported in a study published in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology.
Previous research had shown that chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) carried out deadly attacks on individuals of other groups, but this is the first time that evidence has been obtained demonstrating that they do it in a coordinated manner in order to expand their territory.
John Mitani of the University of Michigan and lead author of the study said:
"Because the newly acquired territory corresponds to the area formerly occupied by many of the victims, we suggest that there is a causal link between the previous acts of lethal intergroup aggression and later territorial expansion,"
For 10 years his team observed and documented attacks by groups of chimpanzees resulting in deaths of 18 other chimpanzees occupying adjacent territory in Ngogo, at the Kibale National Park, Uganda. A few additional isolated cases resulted in death of 3 other chimps. The scientists observed that, following the killings, the territory of the attackers was expanded by 22 percent. The scientists conclude that:
"In the process, chimpanzees in communities that gain territory obtain increased access to resources that are then available to others in the group."
These assaults took place when groups of young adult chimpanzees entered the area occupied by other neighbouring chimpanzee communities killing several of their neighbours, including females and their offspring.
The scientists say that the results of this study do not necessarily relate to the reasons why humans go to war, but they offer clues to the collaboration between humans.
"These aggressions happen on a regular basis but most of the time you see the chimpanzees feeding peacefully in trees, playing with their young and doing things within their communities. Their normal behaviour is a positive and cooperative attitude,"
said Sylvia Amsler, from University of Arkansas, who conducted the field study during the investigation.
More about Chimpanzees, Uganda, Current biology
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