Our lovely Martina just celebrated her 22nd birthday this past Monday. Martina is an extremely intelligent and calm chimpanzee with a bit of a bossy streak, and she has a very interesting social position in our chimpanzee troop. She is much younger than our older female chimpanzees who are in their early 40s, so she garners more attention from the males of the troop. The fact that she is older than the younger chimpanzees, who are in their mid teens, earns her more respect and authority. She certainly uses these advantages to gain status and wield influence.
Recently, she has been getting away with stealing breakfast from Ike and Cory. There are even times where Martina can steal breakfast from our alpha (leader) male Donald. Most of the time the boys just conceded to her requests for their mangos or other breakfast items without any protest. But, if anyone else tried to steal their mangos the whole Chimp House would erupt in yelling and screaming, and that chimpanzee would be chased outside and reprimanded for their blatant disregard for the rank and file of the troop.
So, why can Martina get away with stealing breakfast from higher-ranking chimpanzees and others can’t? It is all in the chimpanzee politics. Over the last few weeks, Ike and Cory have been directing their displays towards each other. This is just part of a slow process between these young adolescents who are gradually trying to position themselves to become the next alpha of the troop. Martina will play a key role as this develops over time. Gaining her support will be a huge advantage when the alpha transition occurs. The support of the rest of the females in the troop is important as well, but Martina’s influence may sway them towards her choice. So, even though the young boys have a bit of growing up to do before one of them can lead the troop, Martina is certainly enjoying collecting those political favors.