Drunken chimps threaten humans

'Country beer' fuels attacks in western Uganda

Feb 11, 2004 - Officials report beer contributes to the threat chimpanzees sometimes present in western Uganda. The chimps have been raiding illegal brewing operations in forested river valleys and getting drunk on the country beer. Once intoxicated, they become hostile and attack and at times kill human children, parks officials say.


The officials point out that a chimp cannot take on a grown man. All the babies they have attacked have been either unaccompanied, or are in in the company of other children.

Officials of the Jane Goodall Institute in Uganda were quoted in BBC's Wildlife Magazine as saying that chimpanzees had killed eight children and injured many others in Ugandan national parks. These incidents happened over several years, and Debby Cox, the director of the institute, suggested that the aggressive behavior of the chimps was caused by increased proximity between the animals and humans.

A Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) report on the attacks says that local beer is usually brewed illegally along river valleys, which are also the habitat of chimps. "When chimps come across the local brew, they drink it, become drunk and in that state any encounter with people means an attack," says the report.

The attacks are normally experienced in areas neighboring the park and normally occur between October and December. This is probably due to food scarcity prevailing in the main chimp habitat during this period, which forces them to move beyond the park boundary in search of food.

"Crops such as sugarcane and bananas, which are grown near the parks, are preferred by chimps. Once the chimps come across a sugarcane plantation, for example, they tend to abandon the park and, as a result, come into conflict with the local communities," says the report.

And when crop-raiding chimps are chased, they get frightened and charge back — especially if they have been drinking.

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