The cosmopolitan ape

Peony had arthritis and was very old, so she could barely move. She would try to climb into a climbing frame where a bunch of chimps were sitting and grooming each other. She wanted to join them, but she could barely get in there. The younger females would walk up to her, put their hands on her behind, and start pushing until she was up there with the rest. We’ve also seen cases where she started walking towards a water faucet, but, since it’s a very large enclosure and she walked with so much difficulty, a younger female would run ahead of her, take water in her own mouth, walk back to Peony, and then spit the water into her mouth so she wouldn’t need to walk all the way to the faucet. The acts of kindness made us interested in testing for altruistic behavior more systematically because the literature has claimed only humans care about others, that ifprimates are altruistic, it’s only to get favors in return.

…I don’t think primates have religions, but they may have certain superstitions. For example, if a thunderstorm comes through with an enormous amount of noise and rain, male chimpanzees will put their hands up and start walking around bipedally, in a dancing sort of fashion. It’s called a rain dance and it has been observed with chimpanzees approaching a waterfall. We really don’t know why they do it. Are they impressed by what happens? Do they think they can stop it? Of course, that would be superstition. Are they somehow in awe of nature? They also react to death. We see that primates are very strongly affected by the death of others. They will not eat for days after one of their group members has died.

Go read about the cosmopolitan ape.

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