Scientists have witnessed a group of chimpanzees killing gorillas in the wild for the first time ever.
Researchers working in the Loango National Park in the West African country of Gabon were observing several chimps when they witnessed the attacks.
The 2 encounters, observed by scientists and published in the journal Nature, saw chimps forming "coalitions" to attack the gorilla troops.
In both attacks, the gorillas were outnumbered as they came under attack from up to twenty chimps. The gorillas attempted to flee from the violence meaning they became separated from their children who were then killed.
The violence between the 2 species comes as a shock to scientists as they have been observed at the park over the last 7 years with little conflict like this occurring. In fact, the relationship between the chimpanzees and gorillas has been relaxed and even playful.
The killings come after the first act of violence between the species occurred back in 2019, though this is thought to be the first time that any apes have been killed.
As per Phsy, lead researcher, Lara M. Southern, who observed the first violent attack in 2019, said: "At first, we only noticed screams of chimpanzees and thought we were observing a typical encounter between individuals of neighbouring chimpanzee communities.
"But then, we heard chest beats, a display characteristic for gorillas, and realised that the chimpanzees had encountered a group of five gorillas."
The report authors said they are just beginning to understand the interactions and that more research was necessary.
"Our observations provide the first evidence that the presence of chimpanzees can have a lethal impact on gorillas. We now want to investigate the factors triggering these surprisingly aggressive interactions," said author, Tobias Deschner.
However, it has been suggested that depleted food resources in the Loango National Park, exacerbated by the effects of the climate crisis, could be the cause of the growing tensions between the chimps and gorillas.
"It could be that sharing of food resources by chimpanzees, gorillas and forest elephants in the Loango National Park results in increased competition and sometimes even in lethal interactions between the two great ape species," Deschner said.