Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Wild chimpanzees drink alcohol using leafy tools, research finds

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Drinking Chimpanzee

Research by an Oxford Brookes academic and a team of international scientists has found that chimpanzees drink alcohol using leafy drinking vessels.

The paper, by Dr Kimberley Hockings was published in the Royal Society journal Royal Society Open Science earlier this month (10 June) and received a huge amount of interest from national and international media.
The new research was headed by Professor Tetsuro Matsuzawa of the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University in Japan and it provides the first empirical evidence of repeated and long-term ethanol ingestion by apes in nature.
Wild chimpanzees in Bossou in the Republic of Guinea, West Africa, harvest fermented sap from the raffia palm using elementary technology – a leafy tool as a spongy drinking vessel.
This absorbent extractive tool is dipped into the opening of the fermented palm sap container, then retrieved and put into the mouth for drinking. All age and sex classes ingested the fermented palm sap and some of the chimpanzees consumed high quantities of alcohol.
Dr Kimberley Hockings, from Oxford Brookes and the Centre for Research in Anthropology in Portugal, was lead author of the paper and commented: “Some individuals were estimated to have consumed about 85ml of alcohol, which is the equivalent to 8.5 UK units, and displayed behavioural signs of inebriation, including falling asleep shortly after drinking.
“Our research demonstrates that there is not a strict aversion to food containing ethanol in this chimpanzee community. “This new use of elementary technology shows once again how clever and enterprising are humankind’s nearest living relations.”
Another recently published article by Dr Hockings explained how apes are adapting to living in human populations at an increasing rate. More can be read about this study on the University news webpages.
Photo credit: G. Ohashi, Chubu University, Japan, and Wildlife Research Center, Kyoto University, Japan