Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

Gombe Chimpanzee War

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Gombe Chimpanzee War - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

The Gombe Chimpanzee War was a violent conflict between two communities of chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania lasting from 1974 to 1978. The two groups were once unified in the Kasakela community. By 1974, researcher Jane Goodall noticed the community splintering. Over a span of eight months, a large party of chimpanzees separated themselves into the southern area of Kasakela and were renamed the Kahama community. The separatists consisted of six adult males, three adult females and their young. The Kasakela was left with eight adult males, twelve adult females and their young. During the four-year conflict, all males of the Kahama community were killed, effectively disbanding the community. The victorious Kasakela then expanded into further territory but were later repelled by another community of chimpanzees.

First blood was drawn by the Kasakela community on January 7, 1974, when a party of six adult Kasakela males consisting of Humphrey, Figan, Jomeo, Sherry, Evered, and Rodolf ambushed the isolated Kahama male Godi while he was feeding on a tree. This was the first time that any of the chimpanzees had been seen to deliberately kill a fellow male chimp. After they had slain Godi, the victorious chimps celebrated boisterously, throwing and dragging branches with hoots and screams.

After Godi fell, De was taken out next, and then Hugh. Later on came the elderly Goliath. Throughout the war, Goliath had been relatively friendly with the Kasakela neighbors when encounters occurred. However, his kindness was not reciprocated and he was killed. Only three Kahama males remained: Charlie, Sniff, and Willy Wally, who was crippled from polio. Without a chance to strike back, Charlie was killed next. After his death, Willy Wally disappeared and was never found. The last remaining Kahama male, the young Sniff, survived for over a year. For some time it seemed as if he may escape into a new community or be welcomed back to the Kasakelas, but there was no such luck. Sniff, too, fell to the Kasakela war band. Of the females from Kahama, one was killed, two went missing, and three were beaten and kidnapped by the Kasakela males. The Kasakela then succeeded in taking over the Kahama’s former territory.

These territorial gains were not permanent, however. With the Kahama gone, the Kasakela territory now butted up directly against the territory of another chimpanzee community, called the Kalande. Cowed by the superior strength and numbers of the Kalande, as well as a few violent skirmishes along their border, the Kasakela quickly gave up much of their new territory. Furthermore, when they moved back northward, the Kasakela were harassed by Mitumba foragers, who also outnumbered the Kasakela community. Eventually hostilities died down and the regular order of things was restored.

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