Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Appears in Collections:Psychology Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Maternal cannibalism in two populations of wild chimpanzees
Author(s): Fedurek, Pawel
Tkaczynski, Patrick
Asiimwe, Caroline
Hobaiter, Catherine
Samuni, Liran
Lowe, Adriana E
Dijrian, Appolinaire Gnahe
Zuberbühler, Klaus
Wittig, Roman M
Crockford, Catherine
Keywords: Animal Science and Zoology
Maternal cannibalism
Parental investment
Issue Date: Mar-2020
Citation: Fedurek P, Tkaczynski P, Asiimwe C, Hobaiter C, Samuni L, Lowe AE, Dijrian AG, Zuberbühler K, Wittig RM & Crockford C (2020) Maternal cannibalism in two populations of wild chimpanzees. Primates, 61 (2), p. 181–187.
Abstract: Maternal cannibalism has been reported in several animal taxa, prompting speculations that the behavior may be part of an evolved strategy. In chimpanzees, however, maternal cannibalism has been conspicuously absent, despite high levels of infant mortality and reports of non-maternal cannibalism. The typical response of chimpanzee mothers is to abandon their deceased infant, sometimes after prolonged periods of carrying and grooming the corpse. Here, we report two anomalous observations of maternal cannibalism in communities of wild chimpanzees in Uganda and Ivory Coast and discuss the evolutionary implications. Both infants likely died under different circumstances; one apparently as a result of premature birth, the other possibly as a result of infanticide. In both cases, the mothers consumed parts of the corpse and participated in meat sharing with other group members. Neither female presented any apparent signs of ill health before or after the events. We concluded that, in both cases, cannibalizing the infant was unlikely due to health-related issues by the mothers. We discuss these observations against a background of chimpanzee mothers consistently refraining from maternal cannibalism, despite ample opportunities and nutritional advantages. We conclude that maternal cannibalism is extremely rare in this primate, likely due to early and strong mother–offspring bond formation, which may have been profoundly disrupted in the current cases.
DOI Link: 10.1007/s10329-019-00765-6
Rights: © The Author(s) 2019 This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Licence URL(s):

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Fedurek2020_Article_MaternalCannibalismInTwoPopula.pdfFulltext - Published Version836.03 kBAdobe PDFView/Open

This item is protected by original copyright

A file in this item is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons

Items in the Repository are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.

If you believe that any material held in STORRE infringes copyright, please contact providing details and we will remove the Work from public display in STORRE and investigate your claim.