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Chimpanzees of Gombe

Chimpanzees are closely tied to their relatives. Jane Goodall and researchers at Gombe National Park observe chimps within their family unit and name individuals to identify them with their relatives. In this chimp family, all the names begin with F. Dr. Goodall has been observing members of the “F” family since she arrived at Gombe forty years ago.


When Jane Goodall arrived in Gombe in 1960, Flo was already approximately thirty years old. A supportive, attentive mother, Flo gave birth to five offspring.



Fifi learned well from her mother Flo’s good parenting. Observations of Fifi with her young show her to be playful and protective. Fifi is the only chimp still alive who was present during the beginning of Dr. Goodall’s research at Gombe.



Freud is the eldest of Fifi’s offspring. Because of his place in the family, he helped to teach his siblings, especially Frodo, who is five years younger. As soon as his mother would allow it, Freud carried Frodo and played with him. In 1994, Freud became the alpha male in his social group and remained in charge until 1998 when, weakened by a skin disease, he yielded his position to Frodo.



Frodo is a large chimpanzee, weighing in at 115 pounds. Frodo often charges other members of the group, and he does not reciprocate when groomed by the other chimps. Frodo became the alpha male in 1998 and remains the dominant male in the group.



Freud and Frodo’s sister Fanni also took on a caretaking role with their younger sister Flossi. She played with and carried Flossi, having learned good parenting skills from her mother. Fanni had her first offspring when she was 11, a couple of years earlier than is typical for most female chimps.



Flirt was born when Fifi was 40, a time when most chimps are nearing the end of their lives. Like Frodo, Flirt is a very large chimp with a brazen personality. When riding on her mother’s back, as most chimps do after the age of six months or so, Flirt stands and stomps rather than riding as if on horseback.