Chimpanzees use vocalisations during group hunting | Sunday Observer

Chimpanzees use vocalisations during group hunting

28 August, 2022

According to new research by the University of Zurich and Tufts University, scientists have now discovered that wild chimpanzees use specific sounds while engaging in group hunting.

Dr. Zarin Machanda, one of the study coauthors, in an exclusive interview with Sunday Observer said, “Chimps make a number of distinct vocalisations; around 60 that researchers have identified - This one in particular is called the hunting bark.”

“Chimpanzees bark in other contexts - they use barks as an alarm, for example if they see stranger chimpanzees. But this hunting bark is acoustically different and used only while engaging in this activity.”


This group at Kibale National Park has been observed hunting five different species of local monkeys – 85 percent of the time it is the red-colobus. Other monkeys they hunt are red-tailed monkeys and blue monkeys. They have also observed chimp-baboon aggression, but were not seen hunting them.

Dr. Machanda is one of the directors of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project. It is a 35 years study. Chimps eat more meat than the other great apes - bonobos, orangutans and gorillas. Chimpanzees’ complex group hunting behaviour has been observed elsewhere in Africa, where they are native.

Adelaide University Linguist Ghilad Zuckermann said, “This is a lovely research that shows us the evolutionary steps towards the wonder of language. I have no doubt that vocalisations, communication and collaboration are closely linked. What apes do not have, however, is speech. Speech enables humans to lie not only about the here and now (which some animals can do) but rather, much more importantly, about the past and future (which no animal can do).”

Cooperative behaviour

Machanda said, “Humans are a very cooperative species and so, these studies on our closest relatives are important. It is an evolutionary puzzle how and why we got to this stage. So, such research on our closest living relative sheds light on that. This trait - that we can use communication is also shared with chimps. This is something we have been doing for 6-8 million years; this is at the root of human cooperative behaviour.”

“So, here is a very compelling reason to study and conserve chimps. If we lose them, then we lose a part of our own history. “Every study has follow-up questions. This study now, leaves many questions about chimp vocalisations and hunting.”