NPR

A Twist In Discussions Of Chimpanzee Spirituality

Are they — or aren't they — spiritual beings? The question is back in the news, as the author of a study discusses findings and possibilities with anthropologist Barbara J. King.
Source: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Are chimpanzees spiritual?

It's a question that Jane Goodall made famous by proposing that the rhythmic swaying and rock-throwing by chimpanzees at waterfalls in Gombe, Tanzania, is an expression of awe and wonder — of spirituality.

It's a question, too, that takes on new twists and turns as new data come in. In 2016, a group of 80 scientists reported in Scientific Reports that chimpanzees at four sites across West Africa cache stones and throw them repeatedly at trees. One of those scientists, Laura Kehoe, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Baum Lab at the University of Victoria, earned global media headlines for a passage she included when writing a post at The Conversation:

"Maybe we found the first evidence of chimpanzees creating a kind of shrine that could indicate sacred trees

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR2 min readPolitics
Suicide Bomber Kills 63, Injures 182 At Wedding Reception In Kabul
More than 1,000 people had gathered at a hall in a Shiite neighborhood to celebrate a wedding. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack Sunday.
NPR10 min read
My Grandfather, A Killer
Denise Guerra, a second-generation Filipino American, never met her grandfather. When she finally learned a long-held family secret, it shattered her view of the quintessential immigrant narrative.
NPR3 min read
'Black Card' Wrings Humor And Pathos Out Of A Serious Situation
Chris L. Terry draws on his own experiences for this story about an unnamed biracial man whose attempts to hold on to both his white and black identities (and his gig in a punk band) cause a crisis.