A 17-year-long study has been published in the journal, Royalty Society Open Science, about chimpanzees drinking from fermented plant leaves located in the Republic of Guinea, near Bossou. The trees that the great apes are getting drunk from are called Raffia Palm Trees, and studies have proven that the sap produces enough ethanol (alcohol), which amounts to one serving of beer. The chimpanzees are drinking the tree sap and getting wasted intentionally.
Many studies have reported chimpanzees consuming alcohol intentionally in the wild before, but scientists found the Guinea study interesting because the apes were getting their alcohol naturally. Researchers told sources, “the human ability to consume ethanol has been suspected to serve as a part of the human evolutionary process, hypothesized as “drunken monkey hypothesis.”
During the research scientists discovered that the apes learned how to take human containers that were placed in the Raffia Palm Trees to collect its sap, and consume it. Containers were put out by the trees, which allowed humans to collect the sap several times a day. The sap is produced by the tree all year long, and along with the humans, chimpanzees would consume the tree sap to get wasted.
The great apes would cover the containers with leaves left by the humans when the trees were left unattended and drink the sap. According to researcher Kimberly Hockings, from the Centre for Research Anthropology and Oxford Brookes University, the chimpanzees would drink, in one session, the same amount of alcohol as a bottle of wine, of the sap. Some cases that were reported from the 17-year-long study stated that the apes would also exhibit behaviors of being intoxicated after drinking the sap.
The intoxicating behaviors that the chimpanzees would act upon were falling asleep or being restless. As researchers studied the chimpanzees, they noticed how some adults would drink with other apes, or alone. The apes also became wise by creating various methods to consume the sap. For example, villagers would use leaves from the tree branches to cover the container filled with sap, and the chimpanzees would take the leaves, dip them into the containers, and squeeze the sap into their mouth’s using the leaf as a sponge tool.
From the 17-year-long study scientists have identified a genetic mutation between humans and the African apes. The mutation shows that both primates share the capability to consume alcohol, for almost 10 million years. Researchers believe having the capability allows the body to acquire quick calories. Researchers also believe that the apes are drinking the sap because they are searching for more fruit.
Other reports of wild species, in the primate native category, consuming ethanol have been reported in Asia, such as monkeys drinking fermented nectar and snatching drinks from beach-goers in St. Kitts. Although the studies have taken place over the 17-year-span research has confirmed that wild species consuming alcohol is rare. Scientists told sources the chimps are consuming the alcoholic beverages because of man-made designs, and there is no proof that the chimps would tap on the Raffia Palms for sap to come out. Hocking’s also pointed out to sources, “research does not confirm the animals were searching for the alcoholic beverage, however it suggests they are not consuming the sap as a substitute either.”
Chimpanzees drink tree sap to get wasted throughout the year. This research is the first time it has been recorded, and other researchers want to take the study further to see if chimps are intoxicated, and if they suffer from hangovers, or compete over who gets the alcohol? Dr. Catherine Hobaiter, from St. Andrews University told sources, “after 60 years the study of chimpanzees continue to surprise researchers and scientists.”
By Krystle Mitchell
BBC: Chimpanzees found drinking alcoholic plants in the wild
Time: Chimps also like to drink alcohol, to get bombed
Washington Post: Wild Chimpanzees drink alcoholic palm wine get wasted just like humans
Photo Courtesy of Xin Li’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License
Photo Courtesy of jpc.raleigh’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License