The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 07-31-2011, 09:20 PM
astro astro is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
How dangerous are chimpanzees to humans in the wild?

We see a lot of threads about what monsters chimps are physically compared to humans, and how they would tear us limb from limb if they got pissed, and in the news have been some horrifying stories about captive chimps getting free and doing just that to humans in the vicinity.

If I'm strolling through an African forest where chimps make their home, and run into a tribe of chimps, how much trouble am I in?

Last edited by astro; 07-31-2011 at 09:23 PM..
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 07-31-2011, 09:47 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
Robot Mod in Beta Testing
Moderator
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 9,090
A lot probably depends on exactly what you do. If for example you smile and try to be friendly, you are much more likely to be attacked. Chimps interpret smiling as baring of teeth, or in other words a sign of aggression.

Jane Goodall proved that you can safely approach them and be around them if you know what you are doing, though.

I know that male chimps are fairly territorial, but I don't know how likely they are to attack if you just stumble into their habitat and haven't been trained on how to act around them.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 07-31-2011, 10:52 PM
JBDivmstr JBDivmstr is offline
Member
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek View Post
A lot probably depends on exactly what you do. If for example you smile and try to be friendly, you are much more likely to be attacked. Chimps interpret smiling as baring of teeth, or in other words a sign of aggression.

Jane Goodall proved that you can safely approach them and be around them if you know what you are doing, though.

I know that male chimps are fairly territorial, but I don't know how likely they are to attack if you just stumble into their habitat and haven't been trained on how to act around them.
Second, all of that.
My advice FWIW, would be to not go "strolling through an African forest where chimps make their home". At least, not without a guide or someone that's a little "wiser, in the ways of the woods", than you seem to be.

Just sayin'...
__________________
"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 07-31-2011, 11:06 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek View Post
but I don't know how likely they are to attack if you just stumble into their habitat and haven't been trained on how to act around them.
The chimps are better tuned to the area, so they are likely to have detected you stumbling around long before you end up in their habitat. In most cases, they will have hidden elsewhere before that happens.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 07-31-2011, 11:27 PM
Crazyhorse Crazyhorse is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Wild chimps frequently exist very close to human populations and the situation comes up occasionally when they encroach on each other. There are infrequent attacks on humans but it does happen, more frequently the closer their habitats become. The most likely response to the situation posed in the OP would be to escape rather than fight unless the human unwittingly wandered right into a pack of males that were already territorially worked up over something.

Pet chimps learn over time how much stronger they are than their captors. They have had their natural fear of man tamed out of them, and are more likely to see a human as a viable opponent if things go wrong. They present a much greater danger to an unwary passerby that gets near them at the wrong moment than a whole pack of wild chimps who notice a human stumbling through the jungle somewhere nearby would, in almost all cases.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 08-01-2011, 01:32 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 55,535
Quote:
Jane Goodall proved that you can safely approach them and be around them if you know what you are doing, though.
I thought Goodall studied gorillas, not chimps.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 08-01-2011, 01:39 AM
Washoe Washoe is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
You're thinking of Dian Fossey.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 08-01-2011, 01:39 AM
Scissorjack Scissorjack is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Auckland
Posts: 6,670
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
I thought Goodall studied gorillas, not chimps.
You may be thinking of Dian Fossey . Jane Goodall does indeed work with chimps. Gary Larson got it right.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 08-01-2011, 03:09 AM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 1,767
i remember the only violent instant goodall observed was when a group of adult chimps killed a juvenile baboon for food.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 08-01-2011, 03:18 AM
astro astro is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by mac_bolan00 View Post
i remember the only violent instant goodall observed was when a group of adult chimps killed a juvenile baboon for food.
Wiki says a lot more than that re violence.

Quote:
Goodall’s research at Gombe Stream is best known to the scientific community for challenging two long-standing beliefs of the day: that only humans could construct and use tools, and that chimpanzees were vegetarians.[12] While observing one chimpanzee feeding at a termite mound, she watched him repeatedly place stalks of grass into termite holes, then remove them from the hole covered with clinging termites, effectively “fishing” for termites.[13] The chimps would also take twigs from trees and strip off the leaves to make the twig more effective, a form of object modification which is the rudimentary beginnings of toolmaking.[13] Humans had long distinguished ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom as "Man the Toolmaker". In response to Goodall's revolutionary findings, Louis Leakey wrote, "We must now redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as human!".[13][14][15]

In contrast to the peaceful and affectionate behaviors she observed, Goodall also found an aggressive side of chimp nature at Gombe Stream. She discovered that chimps will systematically hunt and eat smaller primates such as colobus monkeys.[12] Goodall watched a hunting group isolate a colobus monkey high in a tree, block all possible exits, then one chimpanzee climbed up and captured and killed the colobus.[15] The others then each took parts of the carcass, sharing with other members of the troop in response to begging behaviours.[15] The chimps at Gombe kill and eat as much as one-third of the colobus population in the park each year.[12] This alone was a major scientific find which challenged previous conceptions of chimp diet and behavior.

But perhaps more startling, and disturbing, was the tendency for aggression and violence within chimpanzee troops. Goodall observed dominant females deliberately killing the young of other females in the troop in order to maintain their dominance,[12] sometimes going as far as cannibalism.[13] She says of this revelation, "During the first ten years of the study I had believed […] that the Gombe chimpanzees were, for the most part, rather nicer than human beings. […] Then suddenly we found that chimpanzees could be brutal—that they, like us, had a darker side to their nature."[13] These findings revolutionized contemporary knowledge of chimpanzee behaviour, and were further evidence of the social similarities between humans and chimpanzees, albeit in a much darker manner.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 08-01-2011, 03:24 AM
Crazyhorse Crazyhorse is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by astro View Post
Here is one poignant example of this behavior. (* note the video is somewhat gory including chimp cannibalism at the end). You wouldn't want to be a tourist wandering through the jungle at about 1:25 into this video.

They form militias of sorts, bands of males who patrol the outskirts of their territory and kill members of opposing groups when they are too close. But as stated, generally even a militia such as this would run for the trees at the first sign of a human trouncing through the jungle. (YMMV, of course).
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 08-01-2011, 03:35 AM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 1,767
Quote:
But perhaps more startling, and disturbing, was the tendency for aggression and violence within chimpanzee troops. Goodall observed dominant females deliberately killing the young of other females in the troop in order to maintain their dominance,[12] sometimes going as far as cannibalism.[13] She says of this revelation, "During the first ten years of the study I had believed […] that the Gombe chimpanzees were, for the most part, rather nicer than human beings. […] Then suddenly we found that chimpanzees could be brutal—that they, like us, had a darker side to their nature."[13] These findings revolutionized contemporary knowledge of chimpanzee behaviour, and were further evidence of the social similarities between humans and chimpanzees, albeit in a much darker manner.
missd this one, but i remember how much easier a chimp gets ants for food compared with other apes in the area. the infanticide observed with chimps was also seen with gorillas and was covered in that book "demonic males." still, other than that potential for violence within a troop, and aggression related to hunting, how dangerous are chimps to humans?

have there been any attacks, both in the wild and under captivity?

Last edited by mac_bolan00; 08-01-2011 at 03:35 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 08-01-2011, 04:55 AM
Springtime for Spacers Springtime for Spacers is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
RE chimp behaviour toward encroaching humans. I saw a documentary a while back in which a human couple decided to follow a band of chimps and mirror their behaviour -- drinking where they drank, eating where they ate and so on. I believe they were properly prepared for this insofar as knowing how to not antagonise the chimps.

For the most part the humans were ignored. They found out that chimps can go without water for longer than humans comfortably can and that it's hard to eat what chimps eat when the humans can't climb trees very well. In the latter case they had to make do with what the chimps dropped. At one point a whole branch of fruit was dropped down and they discussed whether the chimps were deliberately feeeding the humans.

It appeared that after three days the chimps had had enough. They travelled to a road, about a mile from the scientific station the couple had come from, before taking to the trees at great speed. The humans decided to take the hint.

All this is irrc of course. If anyone could find this documentary it would be great.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 08-01-2011, 07:53 AM
shijinn shijinn is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crazyhorse View Post
... Pet chimps learn over time how much stronger they are than their captors. They have had their natural fear of man tamed out of them, and are more likely to see a human as a viable opponent if things go wrong. They present a much greater danger to an unwary passerby that gets near them at the wrong moment than a whole pack of wild chimps who notice a human stumbling through the jungle somewhere nearby would, in almost all cases.
this is reasonable. the pet chimp is only dangerous because it knows humans are all wimps, and it hasn't learned about guns yet.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 08-01-2011, 08:10 AM
Simplicio Simplicio is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crazyhorse View Post
Here is one poignant example of this behavior. (* note the video is somewhat gory including chimp cannibalism at the end). You wouldn't want to be a tourist wandering through the jungle at about 1:25 into this video.
I guess, but that and the wiki cite are both examples of Chimp on chimp violence. Presumably they don't treat humans the same way, since someone was able to film them fighting over territory without getting attacked himself.

So does anyone have a case of a chimp in the wild attacking a human?
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 08-01-2011, 08:22 AM
Simplicio Simplicio is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Googling, I found a study of wild Chimps killing very young humans for food (pdf). I couldn't find any cases of attacks on adult humans, but cases of pet Chimp attacks on humans swamp the google results, so its hard to draw a conclusion from the lack of wild chimp attack stories one way or another.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 08-01-2011, 08:31 AM
Crazyhorse Crazyhorse is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simplicio View Post
I guess, but that and the wiki cite are both examples of Chimp on chimp violence. Presumably they don't treat humans the same way, since someone was able to film them fighting over territory without getting attacked himself.
That was the point that I was responding to (that chimps had been observed in brutal chimp on chimp violence). They film those things from very far away with high power zoom lenses, and are experienced wildlife photographers with local guides. But in general you are right, the chimps would much more likely run in fear than attack a human.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Simplicio View Post
So does anyone have a case of a chimp in the wild attacking a human?
Sure, but as mentioned it happens infrequently relative to wild animal attacks against humans in general.

Chimpanzee Predation and the Ecology of Microbial Exchange (PDF)

Quote:
We have documented eight attacks in which a wild chimpanzee, or possibly more than one, caused severe bleeding andr death to children. Attacks were verified by detailed interviews, observation of footprints, and calls. They occurred from August 1994 to September 1998 among rural villages west of Kibale National Park, Uganda. Victims were aged 6–60 months. The chimpanzee(s) attacked infants that were alone or accompanied only by women and children, and ate from all victims that could be carried to an undisturbed site.
Report: Why Chimps Attack Humans

Quote:
Scientists from Kyoto University, Japan have said that chimpanzees in Guinea are attacking humans as wild habitat is increasingly converted for agriculture.
Research Reveals Why Chimpanzees Attack Humans

Quote:
The relationship between humans and nonhuman primates worldwide is complex," Hockings commented, and "wild animals attack hundreds of people globally every year and while most nonhuman primates are fearful of humans certain species such as chimpanzees and baboons have a higher tendency to attack
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:54 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.