School of Anthropology & Conservation

Excellence in diversity Global in reach

Dr Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher

Reader in Primate Behavioural Ecology

Socioecology, mammalian ecology, chimpanzees. Conflict, cooperation, mating strategies, biological markets


profile image for Dr Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher

School Roles and Responsibilities

Director of Education

Academic Background

I am a primate behavioural ecologist and expert in wild chimpanzee behaviour. I have conducted fieldwork mostly in Uganda, but have also tracked chimpanzees in Tanzania. I conducted the first detailed study of the Sonso community in the Budongo Forest, Uganda, for my PhD research at University of Cambridge, following a BSc (Hons) in Zoology from the University of Bristol in which I specialised in mammalian ecology and behaviour. Prior to coming to Kent I worked as assistant director of the Budongo Forest Project (now BCFS) in Uganda, and at Washington State University. 

My research interests span a variety of topics, but I am particularly interested in social behaviour, and socioecology.  Current interests include aggression, reciprocity, sexual coercion, home-range use and social foraging, evolution of complex cognition, and non-material culture. The majority of my work has focused on non-human primates, but I am interested in these topics in other (particularly mammalian) taxa.

I am also interested in increasing public understanding of science. I have given numerous interviews for press and broadcast media, and I am available to provide topical comment or in-depth discussion of topics related to chimpanzees, primatology and human evolution & behaviour. I have also provided expertise in primatology and chimpanzee behaviour as a consultant for Channel 5/National Geographic, BBC Science Television, Lever Fabergé, Granada Media Television, BBC Science Online, Survival Anglia Television, and the Discovery Channel Online.

back to top

Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Book section
Newton-Fisher, N. (2015). The Hunting Behavior and Carnivory of Wild Chimpanzees. in: Handbook of Paleoanthropology. Springer, pp. 1661-1691. Available at:
Newton-Fisher, N. and Kaburu, S. (2017). Grooming decisions under structural despotism: the impact of social rank & bystanders among wild male chimpanzees. Animal Behaviour [Online] 128:153-164. Available at:
Newton-Fisher, N. (2017). Modeling Social Dominance: Elo-Ratings, Prior History, and the Intensity of Aggression. International Journal of Primatology [Online]. Available at:
Kaburu, S. and Newton-Fisher, N. (2016). Markets misinterpreted? A comment on Sanchez-Amaro and Amici (2015). Animal Behaviour [Online] 119:e1-e5. Available at:
Kaburu, S. and Newton-Fisher, N. (2016). Bystanders, parcelling, and an absence of trust in the grooming interactions of wild male chimpanzees. Scientific Reports [Online] 6:20634. Available at: http:/
Kaburu, S. and Newton-Fisher, N. (2015). Trading or coercion? Variation in male mating strategies between two communities of East African chimpanzees. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology [Online] 69:1039-1052. Available at:
Reynolds, V. et al. (2015). Mineral Acquisition from Clay by Budongo Forest Chimpanzees. PLoS ONE [Online] 10:e0134075. Available at:
Newton-Fisher, N. (2014). Roving females and patient males: a new perspective on the mating strategies of chimpanzees. Biological Reviews [Online] 89:356-374. Available at:
Showing 8 of 70 total publications in KAR. [See all in KAR]


back to top

Teaching Interests

Major: Behavioural Ecology; Comparative Primate Biology; Evolution; Research Methods

Minor: Introductory Biological Anthropology, Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Behaviour

Modules Convened

  • SE580:Primate Behaviour and Ecology
  • SE582: Comparative Perspectives in Primate Biology
  • SE993: Advanced Topics in Primate Behaviour

My modules contribute to multiple undergraduate programmes, including the BSc in Anthropology, BSc in Biological Anthropology, BSc in Wildlife Conservation and the BSc in Biology, as well as the MSc in Evolution & Human Behaviour and the MSc in Conservation & Primate Behaviour.

I also contribute to:

  • SE302: Foundations of Biological Anthropology
  • SE567: Methodology in Anthropological Science

and supervise student research in:

  • SE533: Project in Anthropological Science
  • SE855: Research Project (Evolution & Human Behaviour)
back to top

My particular interest is the individual in complex (e.g. fission-fusion) societies: the evolution & ecology of behavioural strategies. Specific topics include association patterns, grooming, aggression, dominance & status, the evolution of intelligence; also hunting, foraging patterns, ranging, and territoriality. My research focuses on chimpanzees. My research has added important findings for the understanding of chimpanzee society & seeks always to test and challenge existing theories.


Research Projects

Chimpanzee1. Grooming Reciprocity and Exchange in Wild Chimpanzees

2. Threats and violence amongst chimpanzees and other apes


back to top








Wenner-Gren Foundation

Grooming reciprocity in wild chimpanzees



Leverhulme Trust

Social complexity, grooming & the evolution of intelligence



Wenner-Gren Foundation

Sexual coercion in chimpanzees (Richard Carley Hunt Fellowship)



H. F. Guggenheim Foundation

Male-female aggression in wild chimpanzees



Leverhulme Trust

Hunting behaviour in forest living chimpanzees (Research Fellowship)



University of Cambridge

Social relationships of male chimpanzees of the Budongo Forest



Leakey Foundation

Social relationships of male chimpanzees of the Budongo Forest 


back to top

Field site

Much of my research has been conducted in the Budongo Forest Reserve, an area of 793km² of grassland and forest on the edge of the Western rift valley, near Lake Albert in Western Uganda. Of this, 428km² is forested, classified as moist, medium altitude, semi-deciduous tropical. The forest is situated between latitudes 1°35´ and 1°55´ North, and longitudes 31°18´ and 31°42´ East, with an average altitude of 1100m (3600ft.).

The forest is a mosaic of vegetation types, each with its characteristic mix of species. This is the result of both natural processes and logging practices. Terrain within the forest itself is gently undulating, with generally low broad hills separated by wide shallow valleys, though some of the smaller valleys are steep sided. The Budongo Forest is home to a population of around 600 chimpanzees, the second largest such population in Uganda.

I have also spent time at other fieldsites: Kanyawara in the Kibale Forest, Uganda; Gombe National Park in Tanzania, and Amboseli, in Kenya.

back to top


back to top

I can offer supervision of PhD and MSc research within any of my areas of interest, broadly behaviour and ecology of primates and other large mammals, with a particular focus on chimpanzees. This can lead to qualifications in either Anthropology or Biodiversity Management.

Mahale Chimps

Current Research/PhD Students

  • Caroline Howlett: 'Expression of the 2D:4D digit ratio across the Primate Order' (Second Supervisor)
  • Adriana Lowe: 'Maternal strategies in wild Ugandan chimpanzees'
  • Jakob Villioth: 'Aggressive interactions in wild chimpanzees Pan troglodytes - demographic and ecological causes and consequences'

Past Research/PhD Students

  • Kelly Greenway: 'Threat and Display: Reproductive Competition in Wild Male Western Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla)'
  • Stefano Seraph Kiambi Kaburu: 'Grooming reciprocity among wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes).
back to top

Media and Consultancy: I am available to provide topical comment or in-depth discussion of topics related to chimpanzees, primatology and human evolution & behaviour.

If you cannot see the embedded video, please download the latest flash player.

© Off The Fence Productions Ltd.

back to top

School of Anthropology and Conservation - © University of Kent

School of Anthropology and Conservation, Marlowe Building, The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NR, T: +44 (0)1227 827056

Last Updated: 25/01/2018