Fifi sits up and stares at Jane, who is wearing her graying hair in her familiar, youthful ponytail. It has been more than six months since Jane’s last visit to Gombe. Her days as a field researcher ended a decade ago. She still longs for time with the chimps, but her globe-spanning crusade to promote conservation, create sanctuaries for chimp orphans, and improve conditions for captive chimps keeps her away.
Above us on the ridge, Freud climbs down from his nest. He has decided to wake everybody up. Hooting and screaming at the top of his lungs, he charges down the hillside, tossing up leaves and pounding on the ground in a display of authority. Startled chimps peer down from every tree. Most leave their nests and wander off into the forest.
Most, but not all. Frodo steps out of the shadows. A hundred twenty pounds of bulging shoulders and arms, Frodo stares at Jane belligerently. Chewing on his upper lip as he does before misbehaving, he advances ominously toward us.
“Here he comes,” Jane warns, as Frodo rushes ahead. Slap! He hits Michael Neugebauer, an Austrian publisher, on the head. Bang! He pushes Michio Hoshino, a Japanese photographer, over onto Jane. Leaping over Bill Wallauer, the Gombe videographer, Frodo grabs a small tree with both hands, plants his feet on my back, and kicks me down the hill. Then he circles around for Jane. Seizing her ankle in a vise-like grip, he pulls her down the slope for ten feet, then releases her to grab Katrina Fox, another researcher, to drag her against a tree. And then he is gone.
We are shaken but uninjured. Frodo didn’t mean to hurt us. He was only showing off.
“He makes me so angry,” Jane says. “I almost wish I knew a lot of swear words.”
A spoiled brat at heart, the muscular teenager has jumped Jane before, stamping on her head so hard he nearly broke her neck. Unlike most Gombe chimps, who accept her presence peacefully, he seems to want to dominate Jane, showing that chimps, like people, may be kind or cruel, caring or cold, thoughtful or stupid.