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The Harrowing Story Of The 'Dynasties' Chimpanzee Tribe

The Harrowing Story Of The  'Dynasties' Chimpanzee Tribe

Sir David Attenborough's latest documentary Dynasties was an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish, following the story of a chimpanzee (also named David) in the wild - the leader of his troop.

Following a gruesome battle with rival chimp Luther, which saw David severely injured, plenty of questions remained - would David die? What would happen to the troop? And what happens next?

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However, this incident is typical of the harrowing incidents that take place between chimpanzees in the wild.

Before long David became the alpha male, and Attenborough's team had started filming the chimps at Fongoli, the troop had another leader, known to researchers as Foudouko.

Dr. Jill Pruetz has been studying the chimps for almost 20 years and described Foudouko to New Scientist as 'somewhat of a tyrant' back in 2017.

As with David in the first episode of Dynasties, Foudouko required a little help from beta males to solidify his power, and so ruled alongside his right-hand chimp Mamadou. However, in 2007, the second-in-command became injured and was separated from the tribe - meaning when he managed to return, his place in the hierarchy was lower than it had been before.

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David the chimpanzee from Sir David Attenborough's 'Dynasties'. Credit: BBC
David the chimpanzee from Sir David Attenborough's 'Dynasties'. Credit: BBC

After opting to keep his alliance with the weakened Mamadou, Foudouko was cast out by the tribe and, losing his place as alpha.

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By 2013, Mamadou had climbed the ladder to regain his position as the beta male - while his brother David, who captured viewers' hearts in Dynasties, had become the alpha.

Although they eventually brought Foudouko back into the inner circle of the troop, the fallen leader made the mistake of seeking to become the alpha male once more.

One morning, Dr Pruetz and her team heard screams and hoots coming from the chimp's nest. When they went to investigate, they found Foudouko dead - he was gushing blood from a bite in his foot, he had a large gash in his back and his anus was ripped.

Once he was examined properly they found he also had cracked ribs - Pruetz said he had most likely died from injuries or the severe bleeding from his foot.

David the chimpanzee from Sir David Attenborough's 'Dynasties'. Credit: BBC
David the chimpanzee from Sir David Attenborough's 'Dynasties'. Credit: BBC

Even after Foudouko's death, his punishment was not over - the chimps continued to throw rocks at his body, poking him with sticks, breaking his limbs and even biting and eating his flesh.

He'd also sustained wounds to his fingers, most likely caused by other chimps biting him as they attempted to hold him down and stretch his body out for the attack.

In a tragic scene following Foudouko's horrific death, Puretz said Mamadou had tried to wake his former leader, while the University of Minnesota's Michael Wilson reflected on the primates' behaviour. He said to New Scientist: "Do chimpanzees understand death? It's not clear if they do.

"It seems unlikely that they know about using pulse or breath to make sure something's dead, so we do see them beating on individuals they've killed after they've expired. But the cannibalisation was unusual."

David began his journey on Dynasties as the alpha male, as Foudouko once did, but soon came into his own troubles, amidst the troop's periodic power struggles. Will this be the last challenge for the leadership? It seems unlikely.

Featured Image Credit: BBC Earth

Topics: TV and Film, News, david attenborough, UK Entertainment, Animals

Rachael Grealish

Rachael is a NCTJ qualified journalist from West Cumbria, with a passion for news, features and journalism. Outside of work Rachael loves plenty of coffee, running and reading.