In her book In the Shadow of Man, Jane Goodall wrote about a chimpanzee named Mike at Gombe who used a clever device to quickly rise in the hierarchy of his group.
Here’s an excerpt from her book, which I found on this webpage:
Mike’s rise to the number one or top-ranking position in the chimpanzee community was both interesting and spectacular. In 1963 Mike had ranked almost bottom in the adult male dominance hierarchy. He had been the last to gain access to bananas, and had been threatened and actually attacked by almost every other adult male. At one time he even had appeared almost bald from losing so many handfuls of hair during aggressive incidents with his fellow apes. One day at camp, all at once Mike calmly walked over to our tent and took hold of an empty kerosene can by the handle. Then he picked up a second can and, walking upright, returned to the place where he had been sitting. Armed with his two cans Mike stared toward the other males. After a few minutes he began to rock from side to side. At first the movement was almost imperceptible, but Hugo and I were watching him closely. Gradually, he rocked more vigorously, his hair slowly began to stand erect, and then, softly at first, he started a series of pant-hoots. As he called, Mike got to his feet and suddenly he was off, charging toward the group of males, hitting the two cans ahead of him. The cans, together with Mike’s crescendo of hooting, made the most appalling racket: no wonder the erstwhile peaceful males rushed out of the way. Mike and his cans vanished down a track, and after a few moments there was silence. Some of the males reassembled and resumed their interrupted grooming session, but the others stood around somewhat apprehensively. After a short interval that low-pitched hooting began again, followed almost immediately by the appearance of the two rackety cans with Mike close behind them. Straight for the other males, he charged, and once more they fled. This time, even before the group could reassemble, Mike set off again; but he made straight for Goliath – and even he hastened out of his way like all the others. Then Mike stopped and sat, all his hair on end, breathing hard. His eyes glared ahead and his lower lip was hanging slightly down so that the pink inside showed brightly and gave him a wild appearance.
Mike’s actions on that day allowed the other chimpanzees, including Goliath, the leader of the group, to see him as a force to be reckoned with – Mike’s use of the cans that made an unfamiliar and very loud, intimidating sound in his display was nothing short of brilliant.
Chimpanzees in captivity have access to many man-made objects that make impressive sounds, and they too demonstrate forethought in the objects that they use during displaying.
Today, when the chimpanzees were given access to Young’s Hill, their outdoor habitat, for their lunch forage, Burrito headed for the triangular structure that we call Negra’s cabin. The cabin has lexan panels that can be hit and kicked to cause a loud noise in the otherwise quiet of the hill.
I imagine it feels pretty good too:
This one is blurry, but you can make out Burrito’s open mouth as he was ending his pant-hoot in a scream:
The display was a little lost on the other chimps, who just went about their business – they’ve heard that one before.
Jamie and Negra:
I didn’t get a photo of Annie – she was very efficient with her foraging and quickly returned to the cooler environment of the greenhouse.
Humans have their own ways of “displaying,” but sometimes I wonder if it would be helpful if we periodically displayed in the same way that chimps do. Perhaps you can try it this weekend – find something that makes a lot of noise, bang or kick it like you mean it, and let out a tremendous yell. Maybe you won’t raise in the ranks of the hierarchy among your friends, but I imagine you’ll feel a sense of released tension afterwards.