If you thought a zoo chimpanzee’s life was a simple sequence of “see banana… peel… eat,” then think again.
The BBC is set to air a new documentary titled “The Chimpcam Project,” that has been shot entirely by chimpanzees at Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo. We’re guessing it won’t quite match the high-tech joys of “Avatar,” but the film is expected to provide fascinating clues as to how chimps view the world around them.
The movie was primatologist Betsy Herrelko’s idea. She introduced video technology to a group of 11 chimps living in a newly built enclosure at the Edinburgh Zoo. At first she just wanted to see if chimps could use a touchscreen to select different videos, thereby offering her a chance to study what images chimps liked.
The BBC reports:
Initially, the chimps were more interested in each other than the video technology, as two male chimps within the study group vied to become the alpha male, disrupting the experiment. But over time, some of the chimps learned how to select different videos to watch.
Do male chimps have BFFs? It turns out the answer is yes. Primatologists knew that male chimps formed short-term friendships, and had always assumed that these bonds might become long-term as well. Now, Michigan researchers have documented that male chimps develop close relationships with each other that can last up to seven years.
For 14 years, John Mitani, a primatologist at the University of Michigan, spent his summers observing male chimps in Uganda’s Kibale National Park. Mitani and his team named the male chimps and documented their activity closely. The chimps and their best friends shared meat, groomed each other, and made sure to get each others’ backs in fights. “[The] males were more social than females, engaged in cooperative acts, and spent time competing for females,” Mitani told DISCOVER.
We humans are slowly starting to grasp the limits of our intellectual superiority, particularly with respect to chimpanzees. Just in the past year, scientists have caught chimps hunting with spears, passing on cultural traditions, displaying altruism, and beating college students (at least some of whom were sober) at memory games. Now, a new study in Current Biology shows they may actually have the capacity for a communication system far more complex than we thought.