"It's the Flo family," I breathed, hardly able to believe what I saw. Three sodden chimpanzees huddled in a small fig tree opposite the tent. There was tough old Flo with seven-year-old Figan and little Fifi, just four and a half. Then, as we watched, Flo lifted a hand—and there were not three chimps, but four! It was only a glimpse, but we could clearly see the tiny black infant clinging to its mother's warm dry belly.
Baby Hastens Return to Chimpland
A brief message in Swahili had brought us hurrying back from London to Tanzania's Gombe Stream Game Reserve beside Lake Tanganyika. For four years, on the grassy ridges and in the forested valleys there, we had been learning intimate details of the life and ways of wild chimpanzees.
"Flo amekwisha kuzaa," said the letter from our cook Dominic, who looked after the camp in our absence, "Flo has had her baby."
We had not been able to return immediately. I had to finish my term at Cambridge University, and we had a rather important engagement on March 28, 1964, in London—Hugo and I were married. Limiting our honeymoon to three days, we rushed back to East Africa to see the new chimpanzee infant.
Now as we sat there—the chimps, Hugo, and I—waiting for the rain to stop, I recalled the early, arduous days, with this same old tent as my shelter, when the chimps scattered in fright before the strange hairless primate who had invaded their territory.
But gradually they had accepted me, and I had begun to fill in the pattern of their behavior. I had discovered how the chimpanzees, as they search the mountains for food, travel in small temporary groups based mainly on personal friendships, sleeping like true nomads where dusk finds them.
Of major importance had been the discovery that these chimpanzees use, and even make, crude tools for capturing and eating termites and ants. And finally, we had witnessed and recorded on motion-picture film the remarkable stylized display that we have called a "rain dance".
Only after months of observation, however, had I begun to understand the subtleties of the relationships between individuals and the complexities of chimpanzee communication.
This had first become possible thanks to David Greybeard, who had come to my camp in 1962 and accepted a banana from my hand. To share his good fortune, his friends had followed, first Goliath and William and then others, including Flo and her children.
Then had come the day, after four years of preoccupation with her daughter Fifi, when Flo had become sexually attractive again. She was trailed into camp by a retinue of 15 males, who mustered up courage to grab some bananas. Thereafter they returned again and again.
At this point we realized what a splendid arrangement we had hit upon—being able to make regular observations, in one location, of the various individuals of this nomadic community. Thus the Banana Club, begun so casually, developed into an organized feeding system that yielded results of major scientific significance. One of the most important was to be our continuous record of the development of the new baby now so unbelievably close to us, nestled on his mother's lap.