Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lianas, delicious fruits, and a chimp's hand

The current site Lingering Shape in West Africa has two special features: extensive scenes of chimps savoring fruits and exciting footage of them crossing a flooded area swinging in lianas. Both features combined helped us to identify here one very special chimp.

We first paid attention to him when he crossed the flooded creek with a group of male chimps. Adult male chimps do not swing elegantly and dynamic on lianas as you might imagine. Their body size and weight urge them to be careful and slowly climb or walk on the unstable path. So, it surprised us that one of them carried something in his hand while crossing although he had rather difficulties keeping his balance. We only saw his dark back and part of an ear, so trying to match him seemed next to impossible.
Even while having a hard time to cross a flooded area, this chimp does not use his right hand for climbing (link to video)

Days later and later again, we found more videos of a dark male carrying something in his hand while walking alone or with others. As we had now seen in other videos with how much gusto the chimps fed on fruits, jokes starting around (“gourmand or gourmet?”) as he apparently always brought his own snacks. But after five or so different scenes, ascertainment that it is always his right hand kept curled in front him, and looking closely at this hand, we were wondering whether there was actually something in it. Most pictures were from quite a distance, but we could not see anything in his hand. What we could now say with the additional footage: there is a chimp with dark fur and a prominent brow ridge who is quite bald and walks always a bit hunched as he uses only one hand for knuckle-walking. We started a discussion thread “Adult male – the right hand issue” to talk about this. 

Always walking with his right hand carried in front of him (link to video)

We then remembered that we had earlier found a male chimp in the long feeding scenes that we described as somehow hunched. Our citizen scientist “Boleyn” had proposed the match based on two different scenes and named him Ebony for his very dark fur. The facial features like the prominent brow ridge fit “our” chimp very good. Reviewing all videos with Ebony, we saw that he also did not use his right hand for walking or standing up. At the time of the original matching we did not think about it much as he and other chimps were gathering fruits – picking them up with one hand, sniffing to determine ripeness, and collecting them in the other hand. That is what you expect of chimps feeding in a fruit “garden”. By looking closer into his right hand – and in striking comparison to a hand full of fruits of his buddy Rufus, we could now see that there was indeed nothing in his hand. Putting once a fruit in his right hand, we saw it rolling away. 

Ebony's damaged right hand is of no use for holding fruits (link to video)
In contrast to this, Rufus' hand is filled with delicious fruits (link to video)
We suspect that his right hand is somehow damaged, cannot really grab and support him while walking – or hanging in lianas. But then, this characteristic helped us to determine his identity.

We are not sure what happened to Ebony’s hand and whether it is a permanent injury or something he will recover from, but this special trait helped us at Chimp&See to identify this chimp. It was a great detective work of everyone involved.

We welcome you at Chimp&See! Come over to watch and try to help us match chimpanzees; if you find a match you can even name that chimp!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Site completed: End of Crimson Dew

Two weeks ago we completed the classification of yet another research site: Crimson Dew in West Africa. It is the seventh completed site since the start of Chimp&See and maybe the most successful one now. While classifying around 20,000 videos from this site, citizen scientists found over 750 of them containing chimps – far more than we have seen from other sites. Furthermore, we could identify a higher percentile of individual chimpanzees than before. This shows the steep learning curve of our citizen scientists, but is also caused by an apparent smaller community of chimps that has some very special and rememberable members. This blog already talked about some of them.
Of course, there is always a number of videos without a confirmed chimp ID. Sometimes only an arm is seen, the chimps are traveling too fast, it is too dark, or they just do not show their faces or any other identifiable traits. The hilly landscape and the habit of the Crimson Dew chimps to travel together in groups made it not always easy to identify single members, but produced some great video footage.

The videos are now double-checked by the science team and subsequently analyzed to answer the ecological and behavioral questions of the project.

We would like to thank all our amazing citizen scientists involved in the classification of videos and identification of individual chimpanzees at Crimson Dew and hope you enjoy the new site Lingering Shape!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday- Welcome back to Quiet Wood :)

After getting lots of experience in matching chimps from camera traps and gathering a dedicated crowd of very skilled citizen scientists, we decided to take a small step back to look again into unsolved matching proposals and chimps without any match at all from earlier sites.

Starting this Thursday is Quiet Wood, a site in Central Africa. As the classification of thousands of videos is already done, all participants can concentrate on the almost 200 chimp videos found, enjoy watching them again and find some new matches.

Here is how it works: we collected all chimp video IDs (partly with additional information) in an open spreadsheet. You can start the videos directly from the weblinks provided there. A list of Known and Prospective Chimps and several older discussions help with orientation if you are new to this site. If you would like to propose a match or discuss anything related to the videos you can open a new discussion in the respective science forum or add to an existing discussion here.

Come over to Quiet Wood and have a look!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A glitch in the matrix

This great line of white breasted guineafowl was found by citizen scientist 'Snorticus'. #DailyZoo

Join the conversation here:

and help us classify videos at !

Monday, September 14, 2015

Matching chimps on Chimp&See and happy surprises that make us check our assumptions!

Happy surprises and checking our assumptions!

When we try to figure out if we are seeing the same chimp in 2 different videos, we very often use secondary clues to figure out if we are looking at the same indivdual or not. For example, if a female is carrying a baby, we often assume that when we see her in other videos she will still be carrying that baby (this is because chimpanzees stay in close contact with their moms for the first 4 to 5 years of their lives). Our cameras are up at each field site for about 12-15 months so we do not expect big changes in growth or appearance, and we can always check the time/date stamp if we suspect something of that nature.

This is exactly how our intrepid citizen scientists figured out that indivduals we had identified as "Maggie" (a female) and "Ollie" (a female with a baby named "Chibi") were actually the same individual! Our amazing citizen scientist moderator "AnLand" started it all with this post:

In the end we went with calling this female Maggie-Ollie, just to make sure we cover all of our bases and to keep it simplest for downstream data analyses. Maggie-Ollie is identified by:
A female with a little cut in the right ear, undamaged left ear. Bald forehead. Whitish beard and eyebrows. Not very robust. Left eyebrow is slightly inclined. Deep wrinkles under the nose, round head and big mouth, and small ventral infant.

If you want to follow along here is the summary of the videos:

Here is the original Ollie/Chibi discussion:

and here is the original Maggie discussion:

If you have some extra time give it a go and join us at identifying unique chimpanzees! Hopefully you will find it fun to get to know the chimps and tell them apart too :)

Chimpanzee Matching

Our citizen science moderators have written some great posts about how to get started on matching and naming chimpanzees from different videos. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Elephant Excitement

Users 'aquitanian' and 'ksigler' pointed out this great elephant clip for #DailyZoo. Seems like some major excitement in the forest!

see the video here:

and join the discussion on elephant vocalizations here:

Help us classify videos at !