1st Edition

The Chimpanzees of Rubondo Island Apes Set Free

    252 Pages 60 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    252 Pages 60 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    How did a random batch of chimpanzees come to populate a small island in Tanzania where apes had never lived before? Combining information gathered from fieldwork, laboratory and archival research, this book tells the unique story of chimpanzee babies taken from their forest homes in West-Central Africa and sold to European zoos and circuses, to then be shipped to Lake Victoria and set free on Rubondo Island. These founder animals learnt what to eat, how to build nests, to breed and raise young – ultimately forming a chimpanzee-typical fission–fusion society that today is thriving. The authors compare the ecology, behaviour and genetics of the Rubondo population with communities of wild chimpanzees, providing exciting insights into how our closest relatives adjust to changing environments. At the same time, a reconstruction of the historical context of the Rubondo experiment reflects on its chequered colonial heritage, and the introduction is viewed against current threats to the survival of apes in their natural habitats. The book will be of interest to scholars and professionals working in primatology, animal behaviour, conservation biology and postcolonial studies.


    1 Creating a Wilderness. The Making of an Island National Park

    2 The Founder's Odyssey. Captured, Caged, Released

    3 Rubondo Island. Weather, Forests, Wildlife, Humans

    4 Bound to be Wild. Sociality and Ranging

    5 Embedded. Mastering a New Environment

    6 Apes in the Anthropocene. Lessons from a Maverick Release?


    Appendix: Publications about Rubondo Island, Its History and Wildlife


    Josephine Nadezda Msindai obtained a BSc in Biological Sciences from King’s College London (2005), an MSc in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University (2008) and a PhD in Anthropology from University College London (2018). The Chimpanzees of Rubondo Island is based on her doctoral work at UCL that included almost two years of field research in Tanzania.

    Volker Sommer is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at UCL,UK. He obtained his PhD in Anthropology at Göttingen University (1985) and has conducted extensive primatological field studies in India (since 1981), Thailand (since 1984) and Nigeria (since 1999).

    "This book undeniably supplements the existing literature on chimpanzee behavioural variation, adding new reports on another—if rather unusual—chimpanzee community. The book not only encompasses the history of the island and its nonhuman inhabitants but leaves you wanting to know much more about them and their future." - Harmonie Klein in International Journal of Primatology

    "The authors set the stage for research with unprecedently thorough background information. [...] It is admirably readable, almost 'un-put-downable.' [...] The book should have a profound effect on anyone seeking to follow suit with a translocation but also is relevant for the burgeoning number of chimpanzee sanctuaries. Rubondo was arguably the most successful and best-studied nonhuman primate translocation and thus deserves a wide readership. Even if you cannot afford to buy it, make sure that your institution’s library does so!" - William C. McGrew in International Journal of Primatology