Recently, a group of chimps has been caught on camera while performing a nighttime raid in Uganda farm. Though, it’s a common practice for chimpanzees to filch crops in the daytime, but this is the first time they have displayed such of-the-night behavior.
Certainly, wildlife remains a significant drain for the farmers residing on the edges of parks. According to a study’s estimation, Rwandan farmers faced 10% to 20% reduction in income because of the chimpanzees and monkeys pilfering crops. With chimps known to consume over 30 different species of crops, raids are becoming increasingly widespread.
A team of researchers from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris wanted to document the activities of wandering chimps, way back in 2013. For this purpose, the team set up a series of camera traps, dotted throughout the maize fields of Uganda’s Kibale National Park. Over a three-week period, they observed 14 crop raids.
The researchers found evidence of chimp activity inside the farms, even though access to the farm had been restricted after the owners of the plantation created a 6.5-foot-deep trench to keep elephants out. After the detection of crop damage, the researchers finally found that the chimpanzees were climbing over the trench using a fallen tree to bridge the gap.
Typically, the chimps rove in groups of three, but the recent study reveals that they move in an eight-strong party. Mostly, females were responsible for leading the nighttime raids, some of whom even had infant chimps at their sides. During the raids, the chimps would gather up ears or stems of corn in their mouths and quickly leave the area; they would rarely remain to eat the food on-site.
Moreover, the researchers think the chimps respond to humans intruding on their land. They argue this type of activity is an attempt for the chimps to coexist with humans and adapt to their ever-changing habitat.
“Our study suggested that the chimps were responding to a very strong pressure to obtain the basic foods they need to survive – a response to the widespread destruction of their natural forest home,” Dr. Catherine Hobaiter, a University of St. Andrews chimp behavior specialist, told BBC News .
Although, Hobaiter concludes that the behavior is not a long-term solution. Performing nighttime raids is risky because of natural predators. In addition to this, she believed local farmers will soon learn of the nighttime raids and begin defending their crops in the dark; in the past, farmers have been known to kill thieving chimps, in a bid to daunt other members of their party.
The study, entitling Wild Chimpanzees on the Edge: Nocturnal Activities in Croplands is published in the PLOS ONE journal.