When I started this project in 2013, Tembo was a rambunctious little yearling with a penchant for play. Since then he’s gotten quite a lot bigger, but he hasn’t really grown up. In fact he’s a bit of a spoiled firstborn if you ask me. Last year, at age four, Tembo went through a very rough weaning period as Tenkere rounded the end of her pregnancy with Tambara. He begged his mother constantly for milk and then cried again after taking her nipple to find she’d run dry. As Tenkere encouraged him to travel more on his own, the intensity of his fits increased. He’s follow at his mothers heels whining loudly and then when she turned around to pick him up, he’d vehemently refuse by pulling away from her, throwing his body on the ground, and escalating into pure screams. He even put two-year-old Leakey’s weaning tantrums to shame (for more details on her crash-diet from weaning, check out my previous blog)!
The birth of his baby brother in 2016 hasn’t pushed him any further into acting his age either. Rather than grooming or playing with Tambara, Tembo throws tons of energy into competing with his brother for mom’s attention. Luckily, as a part of the O-Family Dynasty he has the adoring eyes of grandmother, Outamba to fall back on. She really dotes on him and seems to prefer playing with Tembo to playing with her own daughters. I’ve even seen Outamba come running to Tembo’s aid when the males get so rough that the mighty Tenkere has fled up a tree.
Despite his tendency toward brattiness, I can’t help but love following the little bugger around the forest. It’s pretty rare to get bored watching this little guy. Perhaps his maturity hasn’t developed but his love of playing all the time no matter what certainly has! Follows of Tembo are nearly always the type where I end up recording 90% of the data on video because he’s just skipping from play bout to watching someone groom someone else to another play bout and then there’s some aggression that he’s watching and on and on and on.
But I can’t wrap on Tembo without talking about how much I love his mother, Tenkere. My favorite type of female chimp is the kind like Tenkere, who is as playful as her son and gives aggression back as often as she takes it. She is the archetypal strong and sassy. Over the past two weeks, I’ve watched her play with any willing partner from her youngest son to the adolescent females to alpha Eslom and even our oldest male, Yogi. The only chimp that laughs louder than her, is Quiver.
This blog is a forum share my personal experiences as a field researcher and traveler.