Yesterday, the big group came down the mountains, for the first time this season. The ‘big group’ means the majority of the M-Group including the Alpha Male. As told in former blogs, some of the higher rank males are giving Primus a hard time, challenging him in his position as the Alpha Male. Now, some of those males had split from the group and Primus probably was concerned and felt the pressure to go after them in order to keep control of what was going on. So he took everybody down the mountain to look for the renegades.. and found them not too far from camp. And boy, they pulled of quite a show! Mwiga, our senior guide estimated around 40 chimps altogether, although was hard to estimate as there was a lot of movement. Males were grooming each other, forming new alliances or keeping up old ones, and showing the famous Mahale Hand Clasp, a grooming behaviour only found amongst the Mahale chimpanzees.
The orphans were grouping around Bonobo, whose calm company they clearly enjoy, knowing that staying close to him they are safe. Then the higher rank males showing off in front of each other: Christmas clearly does not occupy one of the Top positions in the group anymore as he was even submissive to Emory when this one was showing off in front of him... Christmas is not in good health at the moment and therefore needs to be careful with whom he starts messing around. And to be honest, besides his diminutive stature Emory does look quite impressive.
Figaro, one of the orphans in the group and brother to the former Alpha male Pimu, showed again that he has a strong personality and for sure will hear a lot about him in the future. Linda, one of the older females in the group, clearly has a crush on him and followed him wherever he went. Figaro saw his chance and invited Linda up a tree and for an intimate encounter.
And then there was Azam. Despite his young age of 14 he recently was seen starting showing off in front of females, trying to make his way up the pecking order. This time however, he decided to show of in front of Bonobo. Bonobo, annoyed by the disrespectful behaviour, puffed up his fur but then moved to the side, probably thinking that this was enough to put the youngster back in place. Azam however didn’t get the message and continued showing off, unfortunately he decided to do so in front of Puffy, Primus’ sister. Puffy, intimidated by his behaviour, started to scream. Primus, alerted hearing his sister, ran towards were she was and starting to chase Azam. Azam ran away but he didn’t get far, Bonobo reached out and nailed him down. Primus reached the two and everybody was holding their breath as Azam now was in serious trouble. Primus started beating him, when suddenly attracted by the tumult, all the other males came. Primus let go as he had to be aware of the others, a moment of not being concentrated might bring him in trouble himself as the other males probably are just waiting for their chance to push him off his throne. Lucky for Azam, he got off lightly.
And where was Teddy during all this time? Smart as he is, he kept his distance and clearly avoided to be involved in any fight that might weaken him or his position as the number two. He just keeps working on his strength and popularity within the group, having found a strong alienate in Darwin. He is patient, knowing that one day, his time will come to take over and become the new Alpha Male of the M-Group, especially now that Primus seems to be under a lot of pressure and clearly has difficulty to deal with it.