Chimp featured in David Attenborough's Dynasties found beaten to death by other primates

David, an alpha chimpanzee, appears in the first episode of Attenborough's new series

Clémence Michallon
New York
Tuesday 13 November 2018 22:34
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Alpha male chimp known as 'Dave' from David Attenborough's new BBC programme Dynasties

A chimpanzee who became known on David Attenborough’s new series has been found beaten to death, likely by members of his own troop.

The ape, who was named David, is featured in the first episode of Attenborough’s new series, Dynasties.

David, an alpha male, is described in the programme as a “strong and determined leader”, defending his rule as younger rivals challenge his leadership.

“This is a story of power, politics, and the fight for survival,” Attenborough says in a BBC Earth clip introducing his namesake.

But it has emerged that the alpha chimp died after the cameras stopped rolling.

David was found dead by researchers in Senegal, West Africa, The Telegraph reported.

Dr Jill Pruetz, an anthropologist and primatologist who has studied David’s troop for two decades, confirmed to The Independent that David died “last February or March, about seven days after being severely injured by what we think were many of the younger adult males in the group”.

Prior to his death, six other chimpanzees, all young adult males, were seen with “serious wounds”, Pruetz said. David was nowhere to be seen.

He was spotted a few days later with his mother Farafa and his younger sisters, Vivenne and Arya.

Farafa is in her forties “at least” according to Pruetz, yet kept other males from attacking David once more. She attacked a chimp named Bo as he charged David.

Meanwhile, David was “hideously wounded”, Pruetz said, and was found dead a few days later around the same area.

His mother and sisters were nearby.

Pruetz was pained by the discovery.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she told TheTelegraph. The primatologist has previously experienced the loss of David’s brother, a chimp named Mamadou.

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David’s death occurred about seven months after Attenborough’s show finished taping in the Fongoli savanna.

Two other chimps featured in the programme, who had previously challenged his leadership, now apparently have the upper hand.

“He died from wounds inflicted from what at I’m sure are these young males,” Pruetz told The Telegraph of David.

The chimpanzee had an aggressive temperament, she added, which his how he was able to dominate his troop for so long.

Trailer for David Attenborough series Dynasties

In Dynasties, David was left for dead after being attacked by his brethren Luthor and Jumkin.

The BBC series saw him clinging to life, then making a remarkable recovery to rise to power once again.

Jumkin has now become the alpha, according to Pruetz. His reign, however, his already being challenged by Luthor.

“Jumkin and Luthor are not allies now, but the cohort of younger males acted as allies against David, often, so we assume they ultimately caught him as a group and attacked him, although apparently he also inflicted wounds on all of them,” Pruetz told The Independent.

“It’s hard to say what the older males might have done during the fight, but most of them have blunted canines, so we can assume that sharp gashes are inflicted by the younger adult males with sharp canines.”

Pruetz, who last travelled to Senegal in August, said the troop has remained the same since David’s death.

“Jumkin is alpha but the group is far less submissive to him than they were to David,” she said.

“He sometimes avoids others and most of the males avoid Luthor.

“Luthor is reluctant to pant-grunt (submissive vocalization) to Jumkin, although he did do so for about a day after Jumkin attacked him.”

West African chimpanzees, like all five of the species featured in Dynasties, are endangered.

The BBC show also documents the lives of emperor penguins, lions – officially classified as vulnerable by WWF due to a decrease in population – African wild dogs, and tigers.

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