The acts of cannibalism and infanticide are very apparent in the behavior of the chimpanzee. Many African studies show that wild chimpanzees kill and eat infants of their own species. (Goodall, 1986:151) Although there is not a clear answer why chimps engage in this very violent and sometimes gruesome behavior there are many ideas and suggestions. This essay will deal with chimpanzee aggression, cannibalism and infanticide. This paper will present information on major research studies performed in Africa and analyze how and why this strange behavior occurs in a commonly thought peaceful primate.
Wild chimpanzees(Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) are known to kill and eat mammals in various parts of Africa. Monkeys were recorded to be consumed in the
Gombe National Park, the Kasakati Basin, and the Budongo Forest. Moreover, there is new evidence that chimpanzees near the Ugalla River of western Tanzania also consume mammals.(Riss, 1990:167) Cannibalism has also been recorded both in the Budongo Forest, Mahale Mountains and the Gombe National Park.
In Jane Goodall's, May 1979 article in the National Geographic called "Life and Death at Gombe" it reveals the first time that chimpanzees who were always perceived to be playful, gentle monkeys, could suddenly become dangerous killers.
"I knew that some of our chimpanzees, so gentle for the most part, could on occasion become savage killers, ruthless cannibals, and that they had their own form of primitive warfare."(Goodall, 1979:594) To try and explain this ruthless behavior it is necessary to first analyze their social upbringing and unique lifestyle. The Chimpanzee society is clearly a male dominated aggressive social unit.
Males are larger than females, they are more openly aggressive, and they fight more often. (Holloway, 1974:261)
These fights can look extremely fierce and the victim screams loudly. But it is rare for a fight between community members to last longer than quarter of a minute, and it is even more unusual for such a fight to result in serious injury.(Goodall, 1992:7)
Many fights break out suddenly. Afterwards the loser of the fight, even though clearly fearful of the aggressor, will alm...
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...s been no evidence revealing why chimpanzees act and behave in this cannibalistic fashion. There are many theories and ideas but like the theory of evolution there is no one clear answer. Being the closest living relative to the human being, chimpanzees exhibit complicated and intricate behavior due to their advanced brains.(Zuckerman, 1932:171) This paper has revealed that chimpanzees are creatures of great extremes: aggressive one moment, peaceful the next. This gruesome violent behavior can actually be linked to a similarity with human beings. It is widely accepted in the scientific community that chimpanzees are the closest human relatives we have.
If we are indeed superior to these primates, does it not stand to reason that humans should be able to learn from this violence and avoid it? Jane Goodall, in her article labeled, "Life and Death at Gombe" draws a similar conclusion:
It is sobering that our new awareness of chimpanzee violence compels us to acknowledge that these ape cousins of ours are even more similar to humans than we thought before.