Thursday, June 7, 2007

The political chimps

On the other day i was watching Nat-Geo where there were showing a documentary on the behavior of chimps - our closest relatives in the animal world.

The aim of the documentary was to show the similarities between them and we human beings. There is this one guy who has been studying chimps for a long time. You have to basically pack your stuff and follow the chimps in the jungle. There is no other way.

So as he was following a group of chimps, he observed a very strange behavior. The chimps were actually on a patrol, looking for one of their fellow chimp. looks like he had done some mistake or crime. Finally one of them finds the culprit sitting on one of the trees. He goes up and brings him done. Then these 15-20 chimps brutally attack and kill the culprit. This was a coup!!

A marvelous display of co-operation and working together for a goal. Not sure what the poor thing had done to be killed. May be it was political or may be it was a fight for a partner. I have seen animals fighting for a partner, but not in groups like this. But this shows that chimps do actually live like us in a community. They punish if they don't like somebody. But getting so many chimps together to kill one chimp requires a lot of communication skills. This incident clearly shows that the chimps do really have such an effective mode of communication between themselves.

They also showed some chimps which use twigs as tools to fish out termites to eat. while eating grass they clean it using water. If they find a nut they will use a fallen off branch to break it and eat it.

They also showed a particular species of monkeys in South America which use rocks to break nuts. This monkey will first keep the nut on one stone. It will lift another big stone with both of its hands just like we do and bring it down with great force to break the nut. Just like what our most primitive ancestors did. It was fantastic to watch this kind of behavior. I had never expected chimps to be so clever.

This in a way explains our own political behavior in communities. We do collaborate with people to defeat somebody in politics. Looks like we have derived this behavior from the great chimps!!

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