Illustration of Chimpanzees and humans

1960-1975 Chimpanzees and humans

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Jane Goodall primatology Illustration of Chimpanzees and humans

Chimpanzees and humans

In 1960, Jane Goodall and her mother settled in at the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in western Tanzania at the request of Louis Leakey. During her years observing chimpanzees in the wild, Jane Goodall discovered that almost everything that we think is uniquely human is true also of chimpanzees. Babies play like human children. They cradle dolls and imagine being grownups. When they’re glad to see their friends, they call loudly, drum on tree trunks, and shake branches. Two friends or a small group sit for hours combing each other’s hair for dirt or ticks. Chimpanzees have personalities. They express themselves with touches, gestures, and calls. A young one begs with his palms up, as our children do. Some people have idealized the chimpanzee, but they are not peaceful vegetarians. Gombe chimpanzees kill and eat other animals and they wage war on competing groups. Chimpanzees will find a twig, remove its leaves, and carry it around to fish termites from their mounds.

Love for others

Baby chimpanzees are adorable. Their small hands, small noses, beautiful eyes make us want to care for them. Chimpanzee, puppy, kitten, or human, it’s all the same. We can’t help it. Instincts call out our love, or love calls our instincts. Then tell me why it matters, fundamentally, that we have differences. Tell me, please, why we aren’t all one family.

99% human

Recent studies show 98.8% or so similarity in DNA between chimpanzees and humans. It’s almost as though we were the same in body and in spirit. We can still talk about our supposed superiority, which in practice means we can kill any threat to ourselves including ourselves, which is not a distant possibility, although it would be wise to preserve a shred of humanity by honoring its manifestation in others—other lives, other tribes, other races, distant fathers and mothers. What are five to twelve million years to distant friends, old lovers?

Jane Goodall loves all animals, especially chimpanzees, and lives with two dogs, Spoof and Mona Lisa, at her home in Tanzania.

See also in The book of science:

Readings in wikipedia:

Other readings: