Chimpanzees in west Africa observed indulging in habitual drinking

From The Guardian: Chimpanzees in west Africa observed indulging in habitual drinking.

The boozing starts from 7am. Though large amounts are often drunk, the sessions are orderly, even sociable. A skinful later, and always before nightfall, enough is enough and they rest.

They are the chimpanzees of Bossou, south-eastern Guinea, and their secret is finally out. With 17 years of evidence in hand, scientists have declared the troop the first wild chimpanzees to indulge in regular, habitual drinking.

The west African chimps were observed in their natural forest habitat from 1995 to 2012. The action, captured on video, centred around raffia palms. Local communities harvest sugary sap from the trees, which ferments into a rich, alcoholic brew in hours.

To extract the sweet, white sap, tappers cut a wedge in the tree and suspend a container beneath. They leave it there to fill and lay leaves over the top to keep the bugs out. In a few weeks, a single tree can yield 50 litres of sap.

But the chimps have cottoned on. In a study published on Wednesday, scientists report 51 incidents of the chimps raiding the palm sap containers. The apes found a big leaf – often one covering the container – and chewed it to form an absorbent sponge or a folded scoop. They then plunged this into the sap, pulled it out and drank. [continue]

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