The Atlantic

Chimpanzees Are Going Through a Tragic Loss

By fragmenting forests and killing off individuals, humans are stopping the flow of ideas among our closest relatives.
Source: Ilya Naymushin

Imagine that an alien species landed on Earth and, through their mere presence, those aliens caused our art to vanish, our music to homogenize, and our technological know-how to disappear. That is effectively what humans have been doing to our closest relatives—chimpanzees.

Back in 1999, a team of scientists led by Andrew Whiten (and including Jane Goodall) showed that chimpanzees from different behave very differently from one another. Some groups use sticks to extract honey, while others use those same tools to fish for ants. Some would get each other’s attention by rapping branches with their knuckles, while others did it by loudly ripping leaves with their teeth. The team identified 39 of these traditions that are practiced by some communities but not others—a pattern that, at the time, hadn’t been seen in any animal except humans. It was evidence, the team said, that chimps have their own cultures.

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