Social Grooming in the Chimphouse

Social grooming is an essential activity in the life of a chimpanzee. It plays an important role in the relationship between family members and amongst friends. It builds critical ties within a chimpanzee community. A grooming session may involve two individuals, or multiple chimpanzees might take turns grooming each other. It is a social activity for primates and can be a way for two friends to relax and spend time together. It therefore plays a crucial role in stress reduction by alleviating tension between individuals or a group. (Recent studies with wild chimpanzees have demonstrated that chimps pick their grooming partners based on a variety of criteria, including their position of dominance within the group.)

Social Grooming in the Chimphouse - Fauna

Initiating Social Grooming

When a chimpanzee wants to initiate grooming they may present a body part to another chimp. It is not uncommon for one chimp to lie down or sit quietly while the other methodically combs through hair. They will sometimes reposition body parts to gain access to areas they wish to examine. Using one hand to hold the hair back, they will use their free hand or their lips or teeth to remove dry skin, debris or food particles or even clean wounds. Throughout a grooming session, chimpanzees will vocalize using their lips, tongues and teeth. Lip smacking, teeth clacking and the Bronx cheer–or blowing a raspberry–are all common grooming vocalizations. Watch Jethro, Rachel and Regis grooming in the video below and listen for teeth clacking and the Bronx cheer.

Grooming with Caregivers

In addition to grooming with each other, chimpanzees  also groom themselves or a human friend. For instance, Rachel likes to groom with her caregivers and they will use backscratchers or brushes during their interactions. Grooming sessions are a very important relationship-building activity between chimpanzees and caregivers. It goes a long way towards building trust and strengthening bonds.

If you would like to send social grooming enrichment like brushes or back scratchers to the chimpanzees, visit our Amazon Wishlists.