David Attenborough appears to be demonstrating that apes have much in common when it comes to leadership. Perhaps it’s not so surprising that chimpanzees and naked apes should take the same approach to gaining and retaining power. May be you find it reassuring to learn that it’s not just humans who resort to bulling, scheming and ganging up to get to the top of the hierarchy. Personally I found it disconcerting to see these apes pick up rocks and hurl them at their competitors and wave large sticks in a threatening manner. I though perhaps it was just about intimidation without real violence then we learned of a sneak attack in the night by three of the young males who were challenging for the leadership. The bite marks and injuries were clearly visible on the old leader.
Weak from the attack David, that is the name the documentary makers have given the old leader, is left behind when the group move on in search of water. But David didn’t become a leader by giving up when things go against him. After resting for a few days he follows the group catching up with them a week later. In the mean time Luther, one of his three attackers, has been making his claim for leadership with a sustained display of intimidating behaviour involving lots of screaming and threatening.
The two confront each other. David knowns he is in no fit state to fight never mind win so he must bluff and out intimidate his opponent. This he does by making him self look as big as possible and making some very convincing threatening gestures and noises. Luther decides he doesn’t fancy it one on one and backs down.
David and his loyal lieutenant, an older chimp with no leadership ambitions, realise that the only way to maintain leadership is form some allegiances giving them the numbers and the strength to defeat any further challenges. These alliances are established and maintained by some literal back scratching
Inevitably their will be a successful leadership challenge and as is so often the case it will come not from an obvious foe but closer to home.
‘Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look.”
Blair Mcpherson former director author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk