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Scientists film chimps in West Africa drinking tree sap alcohol

  • Scientists filmed monkeys having afternoon booze sessions in West Africa
  • They drank the fermented sap from palm trees also used by local villagers
  • They got hungry and tired and often climbed down for food or a nap after

By

Fiona Macrae, Science Editor For The Daily Mail


Published:
19:02 EST, 9 June 2015

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Updated:
03:36 EST, 10 June 2015

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They don’t just like PG tips. Chimps also have a taste for another of our drinks – wine.

For the first time, scientists have filmed them drinking alcohol in the wild.

The creatures, caught on tape in West Africa, held afternoon boozing sessions in palm trees.

So human: The monkeys get hungry after their drinking sessions in the palm trees. File picture

So human: The monkeys get hungry after their drinking sessions in the palm trees. File picture

The animals spending up to half an hour at each supping fermented sap – with the females drinking as much as the males.

And just like us, some of the chimps became tipsy – and settled down for a nap straight afterwards.

The recordings were made by Oxford Brookes University over 17 years in Guinea, where villagers tap palm trees, collect the sap and drink it after it ferments into palm wine.

A little more: Monkeys enjoy a drink too

A little more: Monkeys enjoy a drink too

The tapes show the cheeky chimps raiding the collection containers, which are found high in the trees.

Then then use folded leaves to scoop up the wine and place it in their mouths.

Despite the wine being up to 6.9 per cent ABV, which is stronger than most lagers, they gulped it down, averaging ten mouthfuls a minute.

One male was a particularly big drinker, the Royal Society journal Open Science reports.

All of the sessions took place during the day and despite the wine’s ‘distinctive odour and taste’, some drank it repeatedly and in large quantities.

The research helps shed light on human fondness for alcohol.

It is thought that the smell of alcohol fermenting in overripe fruit drew our ancestors to trees laden with nutritious food.

Plus, the alcohol would have whetted appetite, leading to more being eaten.

Previous research shows that an enzyme that allows us to digest alcohol developed some 10 million years ago, when we shared a common ancestor with chimps and gorillas.

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