2 minute read



Chimpanzees use a multitude of calls to communicate. After being separated, chimpanzees often embrace, kiss, touch, stroke, or hold hands with each other. When fighting, the opponents may strike with a flat hand, kick, bite, or stomp, or drag the other along the ground. Scratching and hair pulling are favorite tactics of females. When the fighting is over, the loser will approach the winner and weep, crouch humbly, or hold out its hand. The victor usually responds by gently touching, stroking, embracing, or grooming the defeated chimp.

Body contact is of utmost importance in maintaining social harmony in a chimpanzee community. Chimpanzees will often groom each other for hours. Grooming a way to maintain calmness and tranquility, while preserving close relationships.

Chimpanzees also communicate through a combination of posture, gesture, and noise. While avoiding direct contact, a male chimpanzee will charge over the ground and through the trees, swinging and pulling down branches. He will drag branches, throw sticks and stones, and stomp on the ground. By doing this, he gives the impression that he is a dangerous and large opponent. The more impressive this display, the better the position achieved in the male ranking order.

Confrontations between members of different communities can, however, be extremely violent. Fighting is ferocious and conducted without restraint, often resulting in serious injury and sometimes death. These encounters usually occur in places where communities overlap. Chimpanzees behave cautiously in such places, often climbing trees to survey the area for members of the neighboring community.

When two community groups of balanced strength meet, they may show aggression by performing wild dances, throwing rocks, beating tree trunks, and making fierce noises. This display is usually followed by retreat into their territory. However, when only one or several strangers, whether male or female, is met by a larger group it is in danger of being viciously attacked. Chimpanzees have been seen to twist the limbs, tear the flesh, and drink the blood of strangers they have murdered in such aggressive encounters.

This hostile activity often occurs when male chimpanzees are routinely involved in "border patrols." Males may patrol for several hours, keenly watching and listening for signs of nearby activity. It is not known if the purpose of the patrols is to protect the local food source of the community, or if the males are engaged in competition for females, or even engaging in predatory cannibalism.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Chimaeras to ClusterChimpanzees - Chimpanzee Species And Habitat, Physical Characteristics, Behavior, Parenting, Eating Habits, Communication, Jane Goodall's Observations