What Was The Gombe Chimpanzee War?

By Antonia Čirjak on July 23 2020 in Did You Know

 The Gombe Chimpanzee War was, just as its name implies, a war between two groups of chimpanzees that lasted for four years, from 1974 to 1978.
The Gombe Chimpanzee War was, just as its name implies, a war between two groups of chimpanzees that lasted for four years, from 1974 to 1978.
  • The Gombe Chimpanzee War was a war between two groups of chimpanzees that lasted for four years, from 1974 to 1978.
  • The two groups of chimpanzees were once united in a single group called the Kasakela community. However, a party separated itself from the group and created a new community called the Kahama. What followed was a four-year conflict that ended with all of the members of the newly formed community killed. 
  • The first act of violence happened on January 7th, 1974, when six adult males from the Kasakela community attacked one of the males from Kahama.
  • Possibly the most tragic of all of the killings was the one where an elderly chimpanzee called Goliath was the victim. He tried being friendly with the members of the Kasakela community throughout the conflict, but that did not save him from the violence.

It is quite hard to imagine an all-out war between animals. Sure, we often see two animals fighting, even a smaller group of animals, but a big battle and a conflict that lasts for several months is not something you see every day. There is at least one example where almost exactly that happened, and we will talk about it in this article.

The Gombe Chimpanzee War was, just as its name implies, a war between two groups of chimpanzees that lasted for four years, from 1974 to 1978. The two groups of chimpanzees were once united in a single group called the Kasakela community. However, a party separated itself from the group and created a new community called the Kahama. What followed was a four-year conflict that ended with all of the members of the newly formed community killed. 

A Divided Community

The Kasakela community of chimpanzees was living in the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. The park was well known for the research on primates that were being performed there. However, in 1974, researchers noticed that the group was starting to splinter, and throughout several months an entire party of chimpanzees created a new community. This community was called the Kahama, and it consisted of six males, twelve females, and their offspring. The original community of Kasakela was left with eight males, twelve females, and the young. 

The first act of violence happened on January 7th, 1974, when six adult males from the Kasakela community attacked one of the males from Kahama.
The first act of violence happened on January 7th, 1974, when six adult males from the Kasakela community attacked one of the males from Kahama.

The first act of violence happened on January 7th, 1974, when six adult males from the Kasakela community attacked one of the males from Kahama. He was gathering food from a tree at the time, and the six ambushers ended up killing him. This was the first time that a party of chimpanzees intentionally killed one of their own. Not only did they kill him, after performing the gruesome deed, but they also started celebrating by throwing branches and screaming victoriously. The violence did not stop there, and the Kasakela chimpanzees continued killing the members of the Kahala community one at a time. 

Premeditated Acts Of Violence

Possibly the most tragic of all of the killings was the one where an elderly chimpanzee called Goliath was the victim. He tried being friendly with the members of the Kasakela community throughout the conflict, but that did not save him from the violence. He was killed, and eventually, only three male chimpanzees of the Kahama community were left alive. The next victim was Charlie, a chimpanzee that was suffering from polio, which made him an easy target. This was when one of the chimpanzees from Kahama simply vanished, possibly out of fear of being killed. The last Kahama male managed to survive for another year until he was eventually killed.

Not only that but since the Kasakela were forced to move north, they were constantly being attacked by a fourth chimpanzee community called the Mitumba.
Not only that but since the Kasakela were forced to move north, they were constantly being attacked by a fourth chimpanzee community called the Mitumba.

The females from the Kahama community were just as unlucky, with three being beaten and kidnapped, one being killed and two that simply disappeared. The Kasakela community managed to take over the Kahama territory, but their celebration was short-lived. This territory was right next to the third community of chimpanzees called the Kalanda. They had the superior numbers and managed to take over large parts of the Kasakela territory.

Not only that but since the Kasakela were forced to move north, they were constantly being attacked by a fourth chimpanzee community called the Mitumba. They also had the advantage in numbers and caused quite an uproar among the Kasakela for some time. Eventually, the conflicts stopped, and the natural order was restored.

This war goes to show how human and animal behavior can overlap. At first, many doubted that this event happened, but in time it was confirmed that chimpanzees are capable of waging war. The conclusion about this event is that it was most likely a result of a power struggle between the male members of the community, which ended up turning into an organized war.

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