‘Chimpanzees more playful than gorillas’

This video from the USA says about itself:

How Do Chimps and Gorillas Play?

9 December 2014

In the second of three episodes with Lincoln Park Zoo, we learn about how the zoo promotes play at the Regenstein Center for African Apes.

From PLOS:

Adult chimpanzees play more than adult lowland gorillas in captivity

In adult animals, play is a sign of social cohesion and is inhibited by strong competition

March 7, 2018

Play is more frequent in captive adult chimpanzees than in captive adult lowland gorillas, according to a study published March 7, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Giada Cordoni and Elisabetta Palagi from Univerity of Pisa in collaboration with Ivan Norscia from University of Turin.

In many adult animals, play is thought to reflect a species’ degree of social cohesion, and is usually more frequent in species with low levels of competition and high levels of social affiliation. Cordoni and colleagues compared adult play in chimpanzees and lowland gorillas, two ape species with different social structures. Chimpanzees live in highly cohesive, co-operative groups that can have several adult males.

However, lowland gorilla groups are dominated by a single silverback male and have low levels of social affiliation. The researchers observed 15 chimpanzees and 11 gorillas in the ZooParc de Beauval, France. Altogether, observations were made over more than 129 hours for chimpanzees and 135 hours for gorillas, with play including “peek a boo” and “tug-of-war” games as well as “rough and tumble” play fights.

The researchers found that adult play was more frequent in chimpanzees than in gorillas, and play sessions lasted longer. In addition, in gorillas play was more likely to escalate into real aggression. It appeared that the more players, the more unstable a play session and the more difficult to manage. While future work will show if affiliative relationships really determine differences in social play amongst great apes, the researchers’ findings are in keeping with the differences in social structure of chimpanzees and lowland gorillas.


Bonobos, chimpanzees understand each other’s gestures

This 2015 video is called Chimpanzees & Bonobos – The Differences.

From PLOS Biology:

Bonobo and chimpanzee gestures overlap extensively in meaning

Kirsty E. Graham, Catherine Hobaiter, James Ounsley, Takeshi Furuichi, Richard W. Byrne

February 27, 2018


Cross-species comparison of great ape gesturing has so far been limited to the physical form of gestures in the repertoire, without questioning whether gestures share the same meanings. Researchers have recently catalogued the meanings of chimpanzee gestures, but little is known about the gesture meanings of our other closest living relative, the bonobo.

The bonobo gestural repertoire overlaps by approximately 90% with that of the chimpanzee, but such overlap might not extend to meanings. Here, we first determine the meanings of bonobo gestures by analysing the outcomes of gesturing that apparently satisfy the signaller. Around half of bonobo gestures have a single meaning, while half are more ambiguous. Moreover, all but 1 gesture type have distinct meanings, achieving a different distribution of intended meanings to the average distribution for all gesture types. We then employ a randomisation procedure in a novel way to test the likelihood that the observed between-species overlap in the assignment of meanings to gestures would arise by chance under a set of different constraints.

We compare a matrix of the meanings of bonobo gestures with a matrix for those of chimpanzees against 10,000 randomised iterations of matrices constrained to the original data at 4 different levels. We find that the similarity between the 2 species is much greater than would be expected by chance. Bonobos and chimpanzees share not only the physical form of the gestures but also many gesture meanings.

Author summary

Bonobos and chimpanzees are closely related members of the great ape family, and both species use gestures to communicate. We are able to deduce the meaning of great ape gestures by looking at the ‘Apparently Satisfactory Outcome’ (ASO), which reflects how the recipient of the gesture reacts and whether their reaction satisfies the signaller; satisfaction is shown by the signaller ceasing to produce more gestures. Here, we use ASOs to define the meaning of bonobo gestures, most of which are used to start or stop social interactions such as grooming, travelling, or sex.

We then compare the meanings of bonobo gestures with those of chimpanzees and find that many of the gestures share the same meanings. Bonobos and chimpanzees could, in principle, understand one another’s gestures; however, more research is necessary to determine how such gestures and gesture meanings are acquired.

This research is important for getting to know about the common ancestors of bonobos, chimpansees and humans.

Jane Goodall and chimpanzees, new film reviewed

This video says about itself:

First Look at Jane | National Geographic

5 October 2017

Dr. Jane Goodall’s groundbreaking chimpanzee research redefined what it means to be human. Brett Morgen’s critically acclaimed film JANE will be released in select theaters starting Oct. 20.

Jane Goodall started her research without having any university degree: her family could not afford that. Before her work in Gombe in Tanzania, no one had ever properly studied wild chimpanzees. Goodall managed to get gradually closer and closer to the chimps, until they no longer saw her as a danger. This way, she managed to discover much about ape behavior never recorded before.

On 7 January 2018, I saw the film Jane, the 40th film ever about Jane Goodall, in a packed cinema. Much of the material is 1960s-1980s footage by Goodall’s first husband Hugo van Lawick; it was thought to have been lost, but was found again in 2014. Interviews with the main character, now that she is 83 years old, were added.

Before I write more about the movie, I have to go back 27 years; to something, not mentioned in the film, but relevant to its content.

In 1991, an article appeared in the New York Review of Books in the USA, written by Lord Zuckerman. The article claimed there were big, unbridgeable differences between humans and apes. One of the books reviewed in the article is Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe, by Jane Goodall. Lord Zuckerman attacked Ms Goodall for being supposedly ‘anthropomorphic’ about chimpanzees.

Who was Lord Zuckerman? Lord Solly Zuckerman (1904–1993) was a South Africa-born British zoologist and military strategist. I don’t know if he ever made any mistakes in military strategy. He certainly made major mistakes in zoology. More precisely, about Jane Goodall and chimpanzees, thirty years before his New York Review of Books article.

Lord Zuckerman, like most establishment scientists until the 1960s, believed there was absolute patriarchal male supremacy among chimpanzees. Jane Goodall’s research proved that theory was not completely right. One may argue that Zuckerman himself was ‘guilty’ of anthropomorphism. Though different anthropomorphism from what he accused Jane Goodall of, as he projected human patriarchal societies into the world of chimpanzees and other animals.

A 2014 interview with Jane Goodall mentions:

If her [Goodall’s] Cambridge colleagues had been patronizing, it was nothing compared to the treatment she received at a symposium on primates held at the Zoological Society of London in April 1962. “I gave my first scientific presentation and was terrified, says Goodall. “I practiced for hours,” she says. “I was determined not to read and not to say ‘er’ or ‘um.’ I have remained true to that ever since.”

After three days of talks, the meeting came to a close with a speech by Sir Solly Zuckerman, an anatomist who had studied monkeys in Africa, and gone on to become secretary of the Society and chief science adviser to the Ministry of Defence. Although Goodall had been well received, Zuckerman took the opportunity to fire a volley of pointed comments at the twentysomething newcomer.

“There are those who are here and who prefer anecdote—and what I must confess I regard as sometimes unbounded speculation,” he told his audience, as recounted in Dale Peterson’s biography of Goodall, The Woman Who Redefined Man. “In scientific work it is far safer to base one’s major conclusions and generalizations on a concordant and large body of data than on a few contradictory and isolated observations, the explanation of which sometimes leaves a little to be desired.”

On the morning of 7 January 2018, Dutch primatologist Jan van Hooff told Vroege Vogels radio about his memories of that meeting. Jane Goodall had discovered that chimpanzees use tools. And not only use tools: make tools. That contradicted the establishment science consensus that only humans use tools. Louis Leakey said Ms Goodall’s research made it necessary to redefine humans. If one defines a human as Homo faber, the tool user, then chimpanzees should be called humans as well (later discoveries found that not only chimpanzees but also other animal species make and use tools).

Jane Goodall also discovered that chimpanzees sometimes eat meat, hunting other animals.

Lord Zuckerman was livid, Jan van Hooff recalls. The noble lord stormed toward biologist Desmond Morris, who had invited Jane Goodall, and said: ‘Who has invited this stupid wench to talk nonsense here? Everyone knows that chimpanzees do not make tools. Everyone knows that chimpanzees eat only plants.’

Van Hooff and Morris responded politely, Van Hooff remembers. As it is not clever to sharply contradict a secretary of the Zoological Society of London who is a nobleman as well.

The 2014 interview says:

This was not Goodall’s first run-in with Zuckerman. At the end of 1961, there had been a press conference at London Zoo to announce her preliminary findings—and she had hatched a plan to use this public platform to call for an improvement in the conditions of the captive chimps at the zoo. “There was a bare cage with a cement floor,” she explains. During the summer months, the chimps had no shade: “It got boiling hot and there was only one platform, the other had broken, so the male got that and the female had to sit on the floor. It was horrible.”

Before the meeting, over dinner with the diplomat Malcolm MacDonald (who had visited her briefly in Gombe and would become governor-general of Kenya in 1963), Goodall shared her intention to champion the welfare of the captive chimps: “I was really excited.”

But MacDonald, with his experience as a politician, could see a flaw. Speaking out on behalf of the chimps to a packed auditorium would be a direct criticism of Zuckerman’s leadership of the zoo. “Do you think he’s going to allow a little whipper-snapper who doesn’t even have a degree to tell him he’s in the wrong?” Goodall recalls MacDonald telling her. “You’ll make an enemy for life, and you don’t want an enemy like that.”

Instead, Goodall suggested several simple changes to the chimps’ enclosure that would improve their welfare, and MacDonald worked behind the scenes to see them implemented. “What I learned then is: Don’t let people lose face, don’t try to do something publicly until you’ve tried every which way to do it quietly. I’ve found that so helpful to me”, she says …

Naturally, Zuckerman took the credit for the improvements to the chimps’ enclosure. “I don’t mind two hoots as long as it gets done”, Goodall says.

Decades later, Professor Jan van Hooff asked his Dutch biology students who knew who Lord Zuckerman was. Not one student’s hand was raised. Then, he asked who knew about Jane Goodall. All hands went up. ‘So, you see’, Van Hooff said.

The film shows how Jane Goodall went into the Tanzanian forest alone. How good she was at climbing trees. That she was not afraid of snakes, including poisonous snakes, as they usually don’t bite unless you step on them. That she got to know the chimpanzees better and better, starting the longest ever continuous research of wild animals, continuing till now. She recorded how chimpanzees were born, grew up and died. She differentiated between individual characters; another one of her innovations.

National Geographic sent Hugo van Lawick to Gombe to film and photograph her work. This brought Jane Goodall and ‘her’ chimpanzees to the cover of the magazine. Hugo and Jane fell in love; married; went to national parks like Serengeti together; got a son; and eventually divorced.

In 2009, Michael Barker wrote this criticism of Jane Goodall:

In October 2008 the world renowned primatologist and United Nations Messenger of Peace, Jane Goodall, traversed Australia, regaling packed houses with stories from her latest autobiographical book, Hope for Nature. Undertaking such whirlwind tours is the norm for Goodall. On average she spends some 300 days a year on the global lecture circuit to raise funds for her wide-ranging charitable activities. This gruelling schedule means that rather than conducting chimpanzee research, speaking engagements have tended to dominate her life over the past several decades. In an interview conducted last year by The Sydney Morning Herald she was asked what had prompted her to make this serious lifestyle change in the 1980s, Goodall replied:

Realising that chimpanzees were becoming extinct — the forests were going — and realising that the environmental and social problems of Africa could often be laid at the door of the elite communities around the world.

Yet despite recognizing that elites present a serious threat to the environment, she is adamant that the same elites will, with a little support from the public, provide the solutions to the very problems that they have created.

Bearing Goodall’s evidently optimist outlook in mind, it is fitting that she formerly served as a board member of the Humane Society of the U.S., a group that describes itself as “the nation’s largest… animal protection organization,” and is well supported by the elite community that Goodall apparently rails against. Here it is informative to point out that one particularly notable board member of the Humane Society is David Jhirad, who is currently the vice president for research and evaluation at the Rockefeller Foundation — an influential philanthropic group that happens to be a key democracy-manipulating organisation (see my earlier article “Pacifying Civil Society“). In addition to holding this influential position, Jhirad acts as the executive vice president of The Gemstar Group, an organisation that, according to their Web site, “work[s] with partners around the world in implementing market-based approaches to global environmental problems.” The president of The Gemstar Group, William Nitze, served as deputy assistant secretary of state for environment in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. …

Barker names other supporters of environment-destroying corporate capitalism, Big Oil corporation bigwigs etc. apparently trying to do ‘greenwashing‘ by associating with Dr Goodall’s pro-environment work. Work that apparently faces dilemmas like the WWF in Spain: which made King Juan Carlos its boss, only to discover that His Majesty killed elephants, and then having to sack him.

Barker concludes:

To surmise: the shady connections outlined within this article do not provide evidence to contradict the fact that Jane Goodall is a passionate and vocal orator on all things environmental. All the same, in spite of her evident passion, it seems more than probable that the message of hope that Goodall preaches worldwide is unlikely to promote environmental solutions that seriously challenge corporate power.

Maybe Ms Goodall’s 1961 experience of improving the London Zoo chimpanzees’ situation without a confrontation with the zoo establishment caused her to be over-optimistic on achieving change without confrontations with establishments. She supports the Green party in Britain; which sometimes does criticize the establishment, but sometimes does not go far enough in that.

Jane Goodall upset the scientific establishment and their wrong ideas. Unfortunately, she only partly sees through political and economic establishments and their wrong practices.

Bonobo apes help strangers

This video says about itself:

Susan Savage-Rumbaugh – The gentle genius of Bonobos. TED talks

7 April 2014

Savage-Rumbaugh’s work with bonobo apes, which can understand spoken language and learn tasks by watching, forces the audience to rethink how much of what a species can do is determined by biology — and how much by cultural exposure.

From Duke University in the USA:

Bonobos help strangers without being asked

Humans aren’t the only species eager to make a good first impression

November 7, 2017

Summary: The impulse to be kind to strangers was long thought to be unique to humans, but research on bonobos suggests our species is not as exceptional in this regard as we like to think. Famously friendly apes from Africa’s Congo Basin, bonobos will go out of their way to help a stranger get food even when there is no immediate payback, researchers show. What’s more, they help spontaneously, without having to be asked first.

A passer-by drops something and you spring to pick it up. Or maybe you hold the door for someone behind you. Such acts of kindness to strangers were long thought to be unique to humans, but recent research on bonobos suggests our species is not as exceptional in this regard as we like to think.

Famously friendly apes from Africa’s Congo Basin, bonobos will go out of their way to help strangers too, said Jingzhi Tan, a postdoctoral associate in evolutionary anthropology at Duke University.

A previous study by Tan and associate professor of evolutionary anthropology Brian Hare found that bonobos share food with strangers. Now, in a new series of experiments, the team is trying to find out just how far this kindness goes.

The researchers studied wild-born bonobos at the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In one experiment, they found that bonobos will help a stranger get food even when there is no immediate payback.

Sixteen bonobos were led one at a time into one of two adjacent rooms separated by a fence. The researchers hung a piece of apple from a rope just above the empty room, visible but out of reach.

The apes couldn’t access the fruit or the rope. But if they climbed the fence they could reach a wooden pin holding the rope to the ceiling and release the dangling fruit, causing it to drop within reach of any bonobo that entered the next room.

The bonobos released the fruit roughly four times more often when an unfamiliar bonobo was in the adjacent room than when the room was empty.

What’s more, the bonobos didn’t wait to be asked for help, they just offered it. The researchers changed the size of the mesh surrounding the stranger’s room so that in some trials they were able to stick their arms through the openings in the screen to beg for the treat, and in other trials they were not. The bonobos helped just as often whether the stranger gestured for help or not.

Bonobos’ impulse to feel for strangers isn’t entirely under conscious control, the researchers also found. In another experiment, they had 21 bonobos watch a series of short videos. In some videos, the apes saw a familiar group member either yawning or making a neutral expression. In other videos they watched complete strangers from the Columbus Zoo in the U.S. behaving the same way.

Just as watching another person yawn can make you yawn, yawning is contagious in bonobos too. Previous studies suggest the phenomenon is linked to a basic form of empathy called “emotional contagion,” when one person’s mood triggers similar emotions in others around them.

The researchers found that stranger yawns were just as contagious as those of groupmates.

The impulse to be nice to strangers is likely to evolve in species where the benefits of bonding with outsiders outweigh the costs, said Tan, now a postdoctoral scholar at the University California, San Diego.

Female bonobos leave the group where they were born to join a new group when they reach adulthood, where they form bonds with other unrelated adults they’ve never met. Bonobos, like humans, may simply be eager to make a good first impression.

“All relationships start between two strangers,” Tan said. “You meet a stranger, but you may meet them again, and this individual could become your future friend or ally. You want to be nice to someone who’s going to be important for you.”

The results were published Nov. 7 in the journal Scientific Reports. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF-BCS-27552-02, NSF-BCS-10-25172).

By the age of three months, human babies can already follow Mr. Rogers’ advice to ‘look for the helpers.’ In fact, human infants naturally show a strong preference for individuals who help rather than hinder others. Now, a study finds that the same cannot be said of bonobos. While bonobos are similarly adept in discriminating helpers from hinderers, they show the opposite bias, consistently favoring hinderers over helpers: here.

Jane Goodall about chimpanzees

This video says about itself:

14 October 2017

Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks with Jane Goodall about the origins of her groundbreaking chimpanzee research.

Jane Goodall, chimpanzees, new film

This video says about itself:

First Look at Jane | National Geographic

5 October 2017

Dr. Jane Goodall’s groundbreaking chimpanzee research redefined what it means to be human. Brett Morgen’s critically acclaimed film JANE will be released in select theaters starting Oct. 20.

Jane Goodall and chimpanzees, new film

This video says about itself:

Official Film Trailer: JANE | National Geographic

25 September 2017

Drawing from never-before-seen footage that has been tucked away in the National Geographic archives, director Brett Morgen tells the story of JANE, a woman whose chimpanzee research revolutionized our understanding of the natural world.