The Gandalf group is the group that we visit with cuctomers for our eco-tourism project MonkeyWatch (www.monkeywatch.org).
It is a very interesting time in the forest right now. It is currently mating season, and the MonkeyWatch Group has had a lot of excitement lately. Unfortunately, Frodo, the alpha male of the MonkeyWatch group, has not been seen for a few days. This leaves the group with only two adult males, while there are six adult females; very good odds for a male trying to mate! The two other males in the MonkeyWatch Group are Gandalf and Gollum. Although not as big as Frodo, who is a very impressive monkey, Gandalf is still fairly large and a powerful-looking male. He was, however, the lowest-ranking of the three males. Although small, old, and walks with a limp, Gollum managed to secure the second rank among the males due to his close associations with Frodo. Poor Gandalf was on the bottom on the hierarchy, since Gollum could get support from Frodo in conflicts. With Frodo gone, however, it could be Gandalf’s time to take over the group as the new alpha male. A group with only two males and six females is however a very attractive group for a male to be a part of, since most groups have nearly equal numbers of males and females.
This is also the time of year when encounters between different groups are most frequent. A new male was seen a few days ago near the edge of the Blue Group, perhaps trying to join them. When the Blue Group and MonkeyWatch Group came into contact with each other yesterday morning, however, this new male successfully joined the MonkeyWatch group instead. This new male is very popular with the females, in mating consortships with both Samwise and Pippin. Based on the circumstances and receptivity of the females, it is possible that he will become a permanent member of the group. And based on his size, I would not be surprised if he becomes the new alpha male.
This new big male is not the only new competition for Gandalf. Two young males from the Blue Group, Lou and Merseault, may also be trying to join the MonkeyWatch Group. These males are just reaching sexual maturity and are at the age where they will be looking to disperse from their natal group to join a new group. Encounters between groups may be an ideal time to disperse. Lou managed to sneak his way into the MW Group during the intergroup encounter and stayed with them when MW moved away from Blue, but he eventually lost his nerve and returned to the outer edge of the MW group. These young males seem to be lacking the charisma of the new older male, spending their time at the edge of the group, and were chased on several times by the new male and by Gandalf, but they kept coming back and trying. Maybe with continued persistence they will succeed at integrating themselves into the group.
It will be very interesting to see whether these males successfully integrate into the group, whether they will stay after mating season ends, and whether Gandalf will be able to hold on to his very short-lived position at the top.