Quiver is turning 8 this year- he’s at the edge of puberty and boy can you tell. He’s lanky- his legs are so long and when he stands he’s taller than everyone. Wallace and Quiver were born in the same month but Quiver is heaps bigger. And rougher. He’s always the one who starts the fight. Every time. He’s the chimp you have to keep you eye on because a branch might come flying your way if you turn your back.
But he’s also so gentle with his little sister. Sometimes he carries her away from the other kids clinging to his belly so can play with Quake all to himself. He dotes on her, grooming her often and always keeping a close watch while she tangles herself up wrestling much older and much larger partners.
Quake, Quiver’s tiny sister is 18 months old. She’s going through a fearless phase. When the big boys display, Quake puffs up too, all piloerect like she’s one of the guys. She stomps up and down the nearest tree branches, grunting and hooting in a low raspy baby-voice.
Recently I watched her wriggle out of her mother’s hands and head straight for the big boys. First she tumbled toward Tuber, a young adult male who is one of our fiercest hunters. She jumped at him and wrestled his hands for a quick jaunt before spinning away toward Lanjo and Eslom as they groomed. Eslom continued picking through his beta’s hair while Quake seized Lanjo’s hands and wrestled them to the ground. The Alpha’s concentration only broke when Quake fiercely tackled his hands as well, sinking her tiny teeth into his fingers and throwing her whole weight into his palms. His only defense was a swift counter-belly-tickle, which disarmed her immediately. Surrounded by adult males, she submitted completely, panting loud gasps of laughter through The Alpha’s tickle attack.
Quinto, their mother, is one of the most difficult females to follow and to photograph. She’s one of the few chimps that is still very camera shy. When I follow her, I pretend that I’m not looking at her and watch her from the corner of my eye. Then I take photographs of things that are near her, maybe another chimp that’s a few meters to her left or a tree or sometimes I just snap into space. Then I slowly pivot the camera toward Quinto until she’s in the frame. I’ve also noticed that her nerves seem to be tied to the act of me removing the camera from my bag. So another tactic I use is to wait until she’s too engrossed in grooming or playing or feeding to notice me taking out my camera. That’s how I captured this portrait- Quinto had just popped her head up from feeding on honey.
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This blog is a forum share my personal experiences as a field researcher and traveler.