January 31st, 2017

Chimp violence

Anyone who has read Jane Goodall’s books knows that chimpanzees can be very very violent to others of their species. It came as a shock to Goodall, who had lived with the animals for years before she observed the violence:

The outbreak of the war came as a disturbing shock to Goodall, who had previously considered chimpanzees to be, although similar to human beings, “rather ‘nicer'” in their behavior. Coupled with the observation in 1975 of cannibalistic infanticide by a high-ranking female in the community, the violence of the Gombe war first revealed to Goodall the “dark side” of chimpanzee behavior. She was profoundly disturbed by this revelation…

To Goodall’s credit, she reported on the violence and didn’t try to hide it, at a time when she was pretty much the only one doing this sort of research. The question arose, however, whether the violence was partly an artifact of human disturbance of the natural habitat and social interactions of the chimps who were being observed. Recent research indicates this is usually not the case.

Which brings us to this story of the murder of a former alpha leader by his previous followers. The tale doesn’t just illustrate violence among the chimps, however. It touches on other issues that I find greatly interesting. One is whether chimps are aware of death. The other is loyalty among chimps; even when the chimp who was subsequently killed had become chimp non grata in the group, one of his former allies remained loyal to him. Another issue raised by the story is competition for females when females are scarce, and how it might lead to violence among the males. And it seems that the shortage of females in the area where this occurred might indeed have been the result of human intervention: poachers.

6 Responses to “Chimp violence”

  1. Yancey Ward Says:

    Nature is exceedingly cruel, there are no rights to life or mates and offspring.

  2. n.n Says:

    cannibalistic infanticide

    Elective abortion and clinical cannibalism. So, progressive.

    Ms. Cecile, tear down the privacy veil.

  3. zat Says:

    Are chimps aware of death? Elephants and dogs and many other animals are reported to recognize the difference between a dead body and the living creature that was before. Elephants and chimps mourn for their dead.

    The article you have linked asks if chimps understand death. How do chimps decide if a chimp is dead or only unconscious? Do they understand that a chimp will be dead if they keep beating him up? Is their act of cannibalism also something to make sure he is dead?

    I presume this story is relevant now because Jane Goodall said: “In many ways the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals”.
    She also said: “The more vigorous and imaginative the display, the faster the individual is likely to rise in the hierarchy, and the longer he is likely to maintain that position.”
    But this only applies to chimps.

  4. DNW Says:

    Yes but that is just – sniff … sniff – Pan troglodytes. You can’t say that about Pan paniscus. They’re still SPECIAL. And loving. And progressive, and liberal and a model for us all. Wahhhhh

  5. parker Says:

    I will venture out on a limb and say yes, mammals are aware of death. Dogs will guard the body of their dead human and also sniff and then lay down beside a member of their pack. We have witnessed this behavior more than once. Our cats meowed and meowed when one of our dogs died and then groomed her as they would groom each other. Chimps, like humans, are complex, intelligent creatures.

  6. obana Says:

    Always wondered how many monkeys Jane had sex with.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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