Cultural and Physical Characteristics of Near- Arid Savanna Chimpanzees in Mali

DOI: 10.14673/HE201641022
Published in Human Evolution – Vol. 31 – n.4 – 2016

KEY WORDS: West-African chimpanzee; near-arid savanna;  survival strategies; bipedalism; hominin evolution

The absence of encounters between researchers and chimpan-zees (Pan troglodytes verus) in Mali is primarily because of their scarcity and evasiveness, the result of being hunted, as well as the extreme climatic conditions. Here we present the first videotaped evidence of wild chimpanzees (possibly a fam-ily of three) in the near-arid cliff ranges of southwest Mali and describe some of their putative cultural attributes and survival strategies based on indirect observations. Regarding their sleep-ing sites, we identified rock shelters and cliff ledges, as well as a diversity of tree/brush bed-platforms of different heights, shapes, compositions and sizes. Most chimpanzee nests in these cliff ranges were found adjacent to walls and appeared to be re-used. Sticks and stones for extractive foraging were discovered at excavation sites, shattered logs atop large stone anvils, and turned-over rocks in brush fire zones. All of these finds were discovered in the vicinity of either chimpanzee hair/feces (in/under nests), foot/knuckle prints or food remnants. Moreover, we hypothesize that a shortage of resources has driven the evo-lution of a unique “bamboo culture” in these highly adaptive chimpanzees, manifested in the construction of complex bam-boo dome-shaped nest supports, as well as a navigation system containing stationary and mobile components. Furthermore, an unexpected mode of locomotion was observed in three endemic chimpanzees at the National Zoo of Mali, exhibiting a previ-ously thought to be uniquely hominin-type bipedal gait – an observation awaiting corroboration from the wild.

Roffman, I.
Nevo, E.
Institute of Evolution,
University of Haifa,
199 Aba Khoushy Ave.,
Mount Carmel,
Haifa 3498838, Israel.

M. Zoo National du Mali,
Route de Koulouba,
Bamako, Mali.

Ronen, A.
Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa,
199 Aba Khoushy Ave.,
Mount Carmel,
Haifa 3498838, Israel.