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Meet The Males

Chimp communities in large, undisturbed forests can be 100-strong with 20 or more adult males. But, the Bulindi community is small having declined from approximately 30–35 five years ago to only 19 individuals today.  This is reflected in its small number of mature males: just three – Sylvester, Keeta and Murry – and one maturing adolescent, Tom.

When Matt started his study in 2006, there were at least 6 big males in the community. It is not known what happened to the three that disappeared, but given that the males are particularly good at crop-raiding – and thus, more apt to get into confrontations with people – it is possible they were killed.

These surviving males are still very much the nucleus of the Bulindi community – the glue that holds it together. Headed by the imposing alpha male Sylvester, and his wily old ally Keeta, the Bulindi males must contend with a very different set of challenges than those that face chimps in more natural habitats. Although their nearest chimp neighbours are only a few kilometres away, the intervening landscape is dominated by humans and their activities, making encounters with rival groups of males an unlikely event. Instead, the Bulindi chimps ‘enemies’ are the humans with whom they share their home.

Each day, the Bulindi males must work together to escort females and young ones safely across busy roads and over farmland. They have to decide when it’s safe or too risky to raid crops, and even confront and chase people away who disturb or threaten them. Like male chimps everywhere, the Bulindi males sometimes quarrel, but their close bond and teamwork is essential for their community’s cohesiveness and future survival.  Get to know each of the males below.  Then, click here to meet The Females and Their Young.