Tools to tipple: Ethanol ingestion by wild chimpanzees using leaf-sponges

Kimberley J. Hockings*, Nicola Bryson-Morrison, Susana Carvalho, Michiko Fujisawa, Tatyana Humle, William C. McGrew, Miho Nakamura, Gaku Ohashi, Yumi Yamanashi, Gen Yamakoshi, Tetsuro Matsuzawa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


African apes and humans share a genetic mutation that enables them to effectively metabolize ethanol. However, voluntary ethanol consumption in this evolutionary radiation is documented only inmodern humans.Here, we report evidence of the long-term and recurrent ingestion of ethanol from the raffia palm (Raphia hookeri, Arecaceae) by wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) at Bossou in Guinea, West Africa, from 1995 to 2012. Chimpanzees at Bossou ingest this alcoholic beverage, often in large quantities, despite an average presence of ethanol of 3.1% alcohol by volume (ABV) and up to 6.9% ABV. Local people tap raffia palms and the sap collects inplastic containers, and chimpanzees use elementary technology—a leafy tool—to obtain this fermenting sap. These data show that ethanol does not act as a deterrent to feeding in this community of wild apes, supporting the idea that the last common ancestor of living African apes and modern humans was not averse to ingesting foods containing ethanol.

Original languageEnglish
Article number150150
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Elementary tool-use
  • Ethanol ingestion
  • Great apes
  • Raffia palm


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