Primates displayed ‘behavioural signs of inebriation’, similar to humans, say boffins studying beasts in the wild
A DRUNKEN troop of booze-loving chimps has been discovered by scientists.
Researchers found a group in West Africa that spends their day drinking fermented sap from raffia palms.
And the primates are so keen on the alcohol – or ethanol – that they have developed “leaf sponge” tools to get it out.
The academics, from Oxford Brookes University, witnessed “all age and sex classes” downing the wine, with some consuming “significant quantities”.
This left them displaying “behavioural signs of inebriation”, similar to humans.
Some became “dozy” and others “agitated”, with one seen swinging from tree to tree in a bid to continue the party, the journal Royal Society Open Science reports.
Dr Kimberley Hockings, an expert in animal behaviour, said: “There are numerous anecdotes about wild non-human primates ingesting ethanol, although almost all remain non-validated.
“The consumption of ethanol by modern-day human beings is nearly universal, being found in every society with fermentable raw materials.
“However, aside from enforced ingestion in captive experiments or anecdotal observations in wild apes, the habitual and voluntary consumption of ethanol has been documented until now only in humans.”
A recent study found that both apes and humans have a common ancestor who experienced a genetic mutation that hugely helped with metabolising ethanol.
They become noticeably lairy in the afternoon – knocking over tables, getting into fights and stumbling around on the beach.
Dr Hockings said that her chimpanzees were generally better at holding their drink.
She said: “On one occasion that I observed, the chimpanzees rested immediately after drinking the palm wine, which struck us at the time as a likely effect of the wine.”
On another occasion, one wanted to extend the party.
Dr Hockings said: “He spent an hour moving from tree to tree in an agitated manner.”
There have been several examples of boozy primates including Happy Jerry who learned bad habits on his trip over on a 19th-century slave ship.
The monkey gained notoriety as a hard-drinking, hard smoking staple of London society and was invited by King George IV to join him for venison, gin and a pipe.
Cheeta – Johnny Weissmuller’s chimpanzee co-star in Tarzan – was notably partial to a drink.
And, in Russia a chimpanzee croupier had to go into rehab when his casino keepers realised that he was an alcoholic.