Animal’s Daily Chimp Warfare News

Before we start, check out the latest installment of Riding the String over at Glibertarians.

Chimps, our closest genetic relatives, are mean critters. They conduct inter-tribal warfare, they kill members of enemy tribes -even the infants – and they indulge in cannibalism. I’m not sure what that says about us, but now we find out that chimpanzee warfare tactics are more complex than we thought – they actually conduct reconnaissance.

Researchers said on Thursday they have documented the tactical use of elevated terrain in warfare situations while observing on a daily basis two neighboring communities of wild western chimpanzees in Tai National Park for three years.

Information obtained during hilltop reconnaissance shaped whether the chimpanzees made forays into enemy territory, the study found, with these apes appearing more apt to do so when the risk of confrontation was lower. The study, the researchers said, records for the first time the use of this age-old human military strategy by our species’ closest living relatives.

“It shows sophisticated cognitive and cooperative skills to anticipate where and when to go, and to act upon gathered information in a safe way,” said University of Cambridge biological anthropologist Sylvain Lemoine, lead author of the study published in the journal PLOS Biology.

I’ve sat face to face with an adult male chimp at the Honolulu Zoo (there was a thick sheet of plexiglass between us) and have also had occasion to interact with a young female orangutan close up.  Both experiences were interesting in the extreme.  Looking into the eyes of an ape isn’t like looking at a dog or cat, but neither is it like looking into another humans’ eyes.  There is more behind an ape’s eyes than just a “dumb animal,” but not quite up to the human level.  It’s a weird kind of uncanny valley effect.

And chimps, especially, are disturbingly like us, from their gestures to their facial expressions to their social interactions. Chimps laugh, they hold hands, they hug – and they kill each other.

As I said, they are our closest genetic relatives.  And maybe they are more like us than we’d like to admit – or, in some cases, (I could point out recent events in the Middle East) it may be that we are more like them than should make us comfortable.