Chimpanzees Drink Alcohol In The Wild Using Leaf Sponges

Chimpanzees Drink Alcohol in the Wild Using Leaf Sponges

Photo by M. Nakamura, 28 December 1996

Humans are not the only species that knows about the pleasures alcohol can provide. A new study reveals that chimpanzees enjoy drink. They even use something that could be called a glass.

Chimpanzees are closer to humans than we thought. Last week we carried a report that Chimpanzees prefer cooked food. A new study now reveals that they also enjoy an alcoholic beverage in the wild. It is no news that animals drink alcohol or even get high. Dolphins for instance get high on pufferfish. 

The study documents that Chimpanzees in Bossou in Guinea, West Africa regularly enjoy a drink from the raffia palm. The “Palm Wine” has an average content of 3.1% alcohol. Locals fill the alcoholic sap of the raffia palm into containers and drink it at home. Chimpanzees use a leaf tool. They stick the leaf into the fermented sap and the leaf acts like a sponge. The Chimpanzee than stick the alcohol filled leaf into their month.

The researchers observed over 17 years 51 fermented palm sap drinking events recorded during 20 drinking sessions involving 13 adult and immature individuals. Interestingly not all Chimpanzees are into drinking the Palm wine. About half the observed chimps have not been seen drinking. As with humans there are social drinks and loners. All age and sex classes ingested palm sap, and there was no sex bias in the quantity of ethanol ingested during a drink session in the jungle.

The full research has been published in the Royal Society Science Journal. The authors of the study “Tools to tipple: ethanol ingestion by wild chimpanzees using leaf-sponges” include Kimberley J. Hockings, Nicola Bryson-Morrison, Susana Carvalho, Michiko Fujisawa, Tatyana Humle, William C. McGrew, Miho Nakamura, Gaku Ohashi, Yumi Yamanashi, Gen Yamakoshi, and Tetsuro Matsuzawa.

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