Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Primatology
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig, Germany
phone: +49 341 3550 240
e-mail: livia_wittiger[>>> Please replace the brackets with an AT sign <<<]eva.mpg.de
The social system of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) has been described as male dominated. Males constitute the backbone of the social structure, forming alliances out of a common interest in asserting hierarchy, territorial defense, and cooperative hunting. In contrast, females have been depicted as more asocial, spending most of their time with their own offspring and having limited social interactions with other unrelated females. Female chimpanzees (P. t. verus) in the Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, however, have been observed to spend a large proportion of their time in social contact with unrelated individuals of the same sex and to maintain close relationships that may last a lifetime.
My PhD project will contribute to answering the question of why Taï Chimpanzee (P. t. verus) females show a high level of gregariousness and which ecological factors make this possible or necessary. I am interested in the social mechanisms that might be at play which help females to cope with an increase in feeding competition. Therefore, I am investigating the possible benefits of close social bonds between females such as food sharing, reduced aggression and support in conflicts. The aim of my study is to reveal if females use different strategies to counterbalance the need for social engagement with competition for resources, and how this affects their grouping patterns, social behavior and energetic condition.
Working with endangered species in threatened environments naturally leads to an interest in conservation. During my previous field work in Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire, I actively participated in projects concerned with conservation education of local populations. Here in Germany, I have joined the conservation group of the Primatology Department to continue to contribute to great ape conservation.