The Secret Lives of Female Chimpanzees

Female apes are easily overshadowed by their larger, more boisterous male counterparts. Thus, the nature of female social relationships has been shrouded in mystery. The subtlety of social behavior in female chimpanzees belies a complex set of strategies that allow them to navigate the costs and benefits of group life.

By combining decades of behavioral research with innovative non-invasive approaches, Dr. Emery Thompson and her colleagues at the Kibale Chimpanzee Project have uncovered fascinating details about the secret lives of female chimpanzees. She will discuss how females negotiate rivalries to obtain the resources they need to reproduce, the chaotic, and sometimes violent, nature of sexual relationships with males, and the unexpected ways these relationships change with age. Along the way, you will learn about the challenges and rewards of studying this fascinating species in the wild.

Melissa Emery ThompsonPh.D., is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico. She received her PhD in biological anthropology from Harvard in 2005. She has studied chimpanzee behavior and biology for eighteen years and serves on the board of directors of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project, one of the longest-running continuous field studies of great apes. While Dr. Emery Thompson is broadly interested in social behavior, her expertise is in developing and applying non-invasive methodologies for monitoring health and reproductive function in wild primates (and humans!). The Leakey Foundation has played an important role in supporting this research.

This program is presented in partnership with The Leakey Foundation.

The Leakey Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to funding scientific research that explores the many facets of human origins and sharing the results of this research through their innovative educational programs. They are based in San Francisco, California, and are the only U.S. funding organization wholly committed to human origins research and education throughout the world.