I observed chimpanzees in the Kimberly-Clark Chimpanzee Forest exhibit at the Dallas zoo. These African apes, like humans, are hominoids and fall into the larger category of catarrhines. Their scientific classification is Pan troglodytes. There were about ten chimpanzees in that habitat. Most of them were grown adults, except two children. They were robust and had black fur. The average weight of the chimps was listed on a display to be about 115 pounds.
Grass made up their environment around which they traveled mostly on all fours, on their feet and their knuckles. They stood erect on two feet to walk when using their hands to carry something. I wasn’t surprised to see that there was an enormous termite mound in the middle of their habitat because I had read about it in the anthropology textbook, and how chimps are adept tool users in that they not only construct them, but also use them strategically. With these tools, they reach into the termite hillock and seek out and ingest their newfound grub.
Inside the chimp habitat, I noticed a sign which read: Look here for a “zoo” born! When I saw it, I recalled that earlier during the day, a senior docent named Rhonda who worked with the gorillas had told me that there was recently a newborn chimp. She said to look very closely to find the baby because the mother was extremely protective of it. She had also mentioned that the newborn’s furless skin would be very pink. At first, I looked very keenly for the small new chimp who had just been born this year, but I couldn’t find it. I finally spotted the baby after I moved to a different position to view the chimps from the open air viewing area. The infant was just as Rhonda had described it: nestled in its mother’s arms as she shielded it from its new surroundings. The mother mostly stayed in one spot in the middle of their home with her newborn close to her chest and her back facing the human visitors. One or two of the other chimps in the troop also stayed near. I observed that the new mother used the “k-selected” or “care-selected” method. Ramona had her five-week-old infant under her own care. The gender of the baby has not yet been determined.
There was a young chimp happily running around his home, who I later found out was the baby’s four-year-old brother, Kona. I chose him as the pivot of my observations. He ran back and forth from the indoor concrete habitat where there was a large wide bowl of food set up. We were told that chimps, unlike some other apes, are not vegetarians. According to a display, chimps eat meat including “bush piglets, bushbuck fawns, even young monkeys and baboons”.
Kona swung about on vines and ran here and there, close by to the adult chimps. The displays and the textbook helped me understand that this is a normal phase of this part of a chimp’s life. I became distracted by him swinging from a vine to the floor. He did it again and again, but all of a sudden he grabbed everybody’s attention when he inadvertently...