Power struggle

We are saddened by the sudden death of Kanyawara’s alpha male, Kakama, on May 24. Kakama had been alpha of the Kanyawara community since 2010, and was a favorite of the KCP research team, who have followed him since his infancy. Kakama died during an epidemic of respiratory disease which also claimed the lives of Stout, Kanyawara’s oldest male, and Rosa, a high-ranking natal female.

Kakama’s passing leaves the Kanyawara community in temporary uncertainty. Being the alpha of a chimpanzee community requires physical prowess, political skill, or both. Most of the Kanyawara males are either too old to be competitive or too young to have the political relationships that could push them to the top. One young adult male, Eslom, is trying to launch a campaign to become alpha, but it is not yet clear if he has earned the respect of the other chimpanzees.

Kanyawara researchers are interested in understanding how chimpanzee males achieve and maintain status, what the costs of fighting for dominance are, and whether individual variation in physiology and behavior predicts the use of different strategies. We are watching carefully to find out who will rise to the top.