Eagle in the valley Issa in western Tanzania, he was just about to tuck into his hard-earned meal when an alpha male chimpanzee burst onto the scene and stole the kill. The result was a rare encounter that was documented by scientists in a new study.
Photo: openverse by Charles Patrick Ewing is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Chimpanzees are mostly vegetarians, but their diet also includes meat and other animal products. They actively hunt for meat and, on rare occasions, scavenge from dead carcasses.
New research published October 31 in the journal Primateshighlights the ability of chimpanzees to resist other predators and obtain food using a behavior called confrontational scavenging.
Lead author Sam Baker research coordinator for the Bugoma Primate Conservation Project in Uganda, followed chimpanzees with Kidoshi Raulent Mfaume, a local field assistant, when they saw the alpha male chimpanzee, Imba, crash into a patch of tall grass. Then the crowned eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus) immediately flew away. Moments later, Imba appeared with a motionless young bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), which the study authors suggest the eagle had just caught.
“Like most new, especially rare events, at that moment it was surreal and exciting. These encounters are rare in the literature, most of them are speculative, so the almost complete observation of the events is unique,” he wrote Baker in social networks.
Other chimpanzees tried to steal the carcass and begged Imba for about an hour to share. He gave some meat to the female chimpanzee and ate most of it himself. After discarding the carcass, other chimpanzees went and took the remains. In the end, only the skull remained.
This encounter is only the second documented example of a chimpanzee stealing food from a predator. Most reports of confrontational scavenger hunts involve chimpanzees taking prey from baboons. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Human Evolution found that chimpanzees also steal from leopards, even though leopards naturally prey on chimpanzees.
“Because chimpanzees are some of our closest living relatives, they provide a window into the lives of our last common ancestor, who lived approximately 6-8 million years ago, and into the evolution of human behavior. Scavenging may have led to more complex social behavior in early humans.” similar to evolutionary steps, passive in relation to confrontational scavenging and cooperative hunting,” noted Baker.
Mfaume, a field assistant who also witnessed the events but was not named in the study died due to poor health in 2022 at the age of 29. Baker said he wanted to dedicate the study to his memory.
“He was a beautiful, indelible soul with a passion for the forest and the chimpanzees that lived there,” he added. Baker.