According to scientists, chimps have been seen murdering gorillas in unexpected attacks for the first time in Gabon’s Loango National Park.
According to a study published Monday in the journal Nature by researchers from Osnabrück University and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, the confrontations were dramatically different from how the two species usually communicate.
Conflicts are nearly entirely within their own species, although both species are aggressive and defend their land.
The chimps formed coalitions and launched attacks on the gorillas in the two encounters filmed for 52 and 79 minutes in 2019.
Adult mother gorillas and silverbacks protected themselves and their offspring. However, the researchers claimed that two gorilla newborns were killed and taken away from their parents while both silverbacks and other adult females fled.
More than two dozen chimps attacked five gorillas in the initial attack in February 2019.
“At first, we only noticed screams of chimpanzees and thought we were observing a typical encounter between individuals of neighboring chimpanzee communities,” the study’s lead author Lara M. Southern said according to the New York Post.
“But then, we heard chest beats, a display characteristic for gorillas, and realized that the chimpanzees had encountered a group of five gorillas.”
A similar incident took place in Dec. 2019 and resulted in the death of a newborn gorilla, researchers said.
According to the report, the deceased gorilla was “almost entirely consumed by one adult chimpanzee female,.”
“We have regularly observed both species interacting peacefully in foraging trees. Our colleagues from Congo even witnessed playful interactions between the two great ape species,” a cognitive biologist at Osnabrück University, Simone Pika, said in a statement.
“Our observations provide the first evidence that the presence of chimpanzees can have a lethal impact on gorillas,” Tobias Deschner, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, stated.
During the study, a total of 45 chimps were studied to examine their relations, tool use, interaction, and hunting abilities, etc.
The fights could have been sparked, according to the authors, by sharing food with other animals. “It could be that sharing of food resources by chimpanzees, gorillas and forest elephants in the Loango National Park result in increased competition and sometimes even in lethal interactions between the two great ape species,” Deschner said according to CNN.
Loango National Park is home to elephants, buffalo, critically endangered western lowland gorillas, and many other animals. The Park is located on Gabon’s coast in Sub-Saharan West Africa, which is a large nature reserve.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers chimpanzees to be endangered animals.