As you might know from many of our previous stories, chimpanzees live in a dominance hierarchy. The males are in a constant competition for social status, and it seems all they are longing for in life is to win a high-rank position, the most desired on the Alpha rank of course. In order to move up the ranks, a male performs what is called charging or intimidation display in front of other males, to show his strength and superiority.
Alofu, Orion and Fanana charging display
There are different ways of charging display and it is always great fun to watch this action. All our guides agree that it is their favorite behaviour to watch. And it truly is impressive! You will see the male puffing up his fur and inflating his muscles (he looks twice as big as usual), running around, grabbing and shaking vines, climbing, bending and shaking trees, throwing sticks or stones, slapping and stamping on the ground. It is a powerful moment! Interesting to know is that a low-rank male or even an adolescent before charging display, first will make sure that there is no higher-rank male around, as this one might mistake his showing off as an attempt to challenge him, and most probably would challenge back. Some of the younger chimpanzees within the M-community, like Christmas for example, learned in the past that charging display in front of human visitors is great fun as they are easy to impress.
One of our favorite actions is the Metall House Drumming. When charging display the chimps will use what they can find around them to enhance the impact of their action, like branches, vines, sticks and stones. At Kansyana Camp, the Japanese’ researchers accommodation a little further up north the lake from our camp, the chimps found out that banging against the metal walls of one of the buildings is making a lot of noise. It has been witnessed in the past that when approaching Kansyana Camp, the males get excited almost as if looking forward to do some Metall House Drumming. It is definitely one of the most spectacular ways of charging display amongst the Mahale adult males… see for yourself!