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Friday, January 15, 2010

are chimps so bad?

Blackbird wrote:

'I like bonobos as much as the next thing, but, why demonising chimps at the minimum opportunity? True, chimps occasionally kill other chimps, but this is not an everyday behaviour. Male chimps hunt, but then there is sharing between the hunters, and also meat is given to females. Chimps have also been observed to share tools for nut cracking. I find that the constant demonising of chimps does no good to this blog. It is like humans where referred as murderers constantly.'

It's true Blackbird - I am guilty of playing this up, and maybe I go overboard. I love chimpanzees. I worked with them before I even knew what a bonobo was, and just like us, they are capable of love, kindness, grief - and all the other 'higher' human emotions.

But what I get sick of, is people just knowing about bonobos for their sexual behavior. The point I'm trying to make (perhaps unsuccessfully) is that bonobos are so much more than a horny version of a chimpanzees. Because chimps, for all their good points, still share the darker side of ourselves. Bonobos, despite being as closely related to us, as chimps, have managed to find a way to live without war, murder, and infantacide. And that is what makes them so special, not penis fencing or g-g rubbing.

The other reason I keep harping on the potential of murderous violence in chimps is that PEOPLE IN THE USA STILL WANT TO BUY ONE AS A PET. Chimps, to most Americans, are the cute little 3 year olds dressed up in clothes on television, not the 200 pound adolescents who will happily tear your face off. I have worked with chimps for almost 10 years now, and I can tell you that there is a rage in them, especially in adolescent males, that is sometimes impossible for them to control.

This doesn't mean they aren't special, wonderful creatures worth saving - just other animals with predatory streaks, like tigers or lions. But this side of chimpanzees is so often ignored that I wanted to make sure people are aware of it.

But I've probably been leaning too heavily to one side, so I'll try to be more balanced in the future...

And just to prove it - here is Tatango (the bonobo) in a magnificent, angry charge!