Chimpanzees Get Drunk


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There’s AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) – Now, there’s AAA (Alcoholic Ape Anonymous). A 17-year study revealed chimpanzees use leaves to drink fermented palm sap, which makes them drunk if they over-indulge. Some are addicted.

Scientists studying chimpanzees in Guinea, Africa have seen evidence of long-term and recurrent ingestion of ethanol by apes.

The study – published in the journal Royal Society Open Science – revealed their tipple of choice is naturally fermented palm wine, produced by raffia palm trees.  In the Bossou area of Guinea, where this research took place, some local people harvest “palm wine” from the trees – tapping them at the crown, and gathering the sap in plastic containers, which they collect in the mornings and evenings.

In the Bossou area of Guinea, where this research took place, some local people harvest “palm wine” from the trees – tapping them at the crown, and gathering the sap in plastic containers, which they collect in the mornings and evenings.

Researchers working in the area had already witnessed chimpanzees climbing the trees – often in groups – and drinking the naturally fermented palm sap.

The chimps used drinking tools called leaf sponges – handfuls of leaves that they chew and crush into absorbent sponges, dip into the liquid and suck out the contents.

To work out the extent of the animals’ indulging, the scientists measured the alcohol content of the wine in the containers and filmed the chimps’ “drinking sessions”.

The research team, led by Dr Kimberley Hockings from Oxford Brookes University and the Centre for Research in Anthropology in Portugal, worked out that the sap was about 3% alcohol by volume.

Another recent study by Matthew Carrigan, from Santa Fe College in the US, showed that humans and African apes shared a genetic mutation that enabled them to effectively metabolise ethanol.

When asked for a comment famed primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, who studied chimps for decades, said ‘I can’t respond ’till I’ve completed by glass of wine.” (Just kidding about Goodall – but all the above is true)