Future, A Popular Leader
Seventeen-year-old Future has been the alpha male of his social group of 19 rescued chimpanzees for about two years. Future is kind and brave. He enjoys a lot of support from a posse of males who always stand with him as he mediates conflict in the group. The females also love Future because he’s gentle with them, doesn’t steal their food and doesn’t let other males be mean to them.
Luke, an Ambitious Male, Started to Make His Play
This past July, Luke, a bigger and slightly younger male, began harassing and trying to pick fights with members of Future’s posse. It was an indirect way of challenging Future’s authority. Each time it happened, Future, with the support of the group, was able to quickly put Luke in his place and get an apology from him. For several months, Luke regularly created disorder like this, but he was afraid to challenge Future directly. He remained overtly submissive to him.
Serious Trouble for Future
Unfortunately, it changed one night in October. Luke and Future were sharing a sleeping chamber, where they had slept peacefully together many times before. But this time, while they were separated from the rest of the group, Luke attacked and badly injured Future, causing deep lacerations and punctures on his hands, feet and face.
Uncertainty for the Group
We weren’t sure what it would mean for the leadership of the group. Would Luke take over, though he had little support from any of the chimpanzees in the group? Or would Future regain his confidence as he healed and maintain his role as alpha male?
A Return to Power
Future allowed the veterinary team to flush his wounds, and he took his antibiotics willingly. It was critically important that he avoid Luke during his convalescense, while he was weak. His caregivers helped him by keeping Luke inside for a few weeks. Finally, Future was well, and it was clear that the other chimpanzees in the group were still with him. So the caregivers let Luke join them in their 20-acre forested enclosure. With the other chimps behind him, Future displayed fiercely at Luke to show his dominance. When Luke screamed, offered his hand and then his back, submitting and begging for reconciliation, Future accepted that it was settled. For the moment, Future shows no signs of wanting to punish Luke, and Luke is again overtly submissive.
The caregivers will observe carefully and will never again leave the two males in a sleeping chamber together, at least not any time soon. His recent trouble notwithstanding, Future is a very good, fair leader. We hope he will reign for a long time.