In Her Own Words:
One day I followed an adult female chimpanzee that has five kids. That’s a lot for a chimp! An adult male in the community attempted to sneak her and her family away so that he would have exclusive access to mate with her. But the female seemed incredibly resistant to the idea of leaving the community.
While the female stalled, her children were eager to hang out with the high-ranking male. Her young son watched his every action and followed him continually. After a while, they all went to the periphery of the community’s range. For two hours, everyone ate and played together. Then suddenly, the female was nowhere to be found.
Her kids began running back through the forest, screaming loudly. The male followed, displaying aggressively — banging on trees and making loud vocalizations. Eventually, the male gave up and left. Once he was gone, the mom reappeared, the kids stopped screaming and the family traveled back to the central area. Several hours later, the same male found them there and attacked the female. Then it started all over again. Eventually they reached a feeding patch and spent the day there.
At day’s end, several other families arrived at the feeding patch, and everyone started traveling back to the central area together. While the high-ranking male was walking back with everyone, the female slipped away with her kids without anyone noticing. They were quick and quiet. In the distance, I could hear the male crying out. I suspect he realized she’d sneaked away again.
[This article originally appeared in print as "Ape Escape."]