As if we needed any more reasons to believe we are related to apes, scientists have recently discovered that booze sessions are not foreign to wild chimpanzees, which use palm wine for their unsuspected entertainment.
The guilty chimps are located in Guinea, one of the West African countries, where raffia palms are used by locals for their sweet milky extract that can be fermented and turned into an alcoholic drink.
What apes did was to rumple the tree’s leaves in their mouths, shaping them in the form of pads that are then dipped in the containers the villagers attach to the tree, close to the crown, for extract-collection purposes.
Lab tests on the beverage’s alcoholic content showed a variation from 3.1 percent to a shocking 6.9 per cent – the same as the alcohol found in a strong beer. It is no surprise then that some of the chimps got a bit on the drunk side.
Even though the paper’s tone was rather sober, readers couldn’t help but chuckle when the researchers explained that after a high intake of ethanol (alcohol), some of the apes started displaying the same inebriation signs that are seen in humans.
It is, however, not the first time scientists have observed cases of animals consuming a type of alcohol. There are Swedish moose getting drunk by eating fermented fruit, and plenty of monkeys in the Caribbean islands been reported to drink up the vacationers’ cocktails.
However, the Bussou chimp colony is the first documented case with extensive observational data – 17 years-worth of it – on how much alcohol is enough for a wild animal to become drunk.
Observations showed that plenty of the cases where chimps would climb to the top of the palm for a little “snack” involved several of them gathering in “drinking sessions” around the tree’s crown.
Research recorded over 50 of such drinking events during the 17 years of observation, 20 of which involved the chimp community of 13 adults and young chimps sharing a drink in groups.
It was interesting to see that the apes “fabricated” their sponges from the very leaves that villagers had used as protection against dust and insects over the containers collecting the extract.
This study comes in support of the theory that claims apes and humans share a genetic trait that allows them to break down alcohol. The hypothesis argues that it was necessary for the early humans to be able to metabolize alcohol, because it meant they could gain extra calories and vitamins by eating fermented forest fruit.
Image Source: Safari Wildz