Chimpanzees: Too Close for Comfort

Back in 1992, David Attenborough narrated the film Too Close for Comfort, a documentary on chimpanzee life and behavior in the Tai Forest. The Tai Forest is a national park in Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa. The film centers on the work of Christophe Boesch and Hedwige Boesch-Achermann, who have been working in the Ivory Coast for years. Together the two wrote the book The Chimpanzees of the Tai Forest: Behavioral Ecology and Evolution.

I use this film in my Introduction to Anthropology class, it just has some extraordinary footage. Mike Richards, the cameraman, spent two years on this project! Here is one clip, where the chimps are filmed cooperatively hunting colobus monkeys. Wow.

There are four other clips available:

Closest links to man – the intro to the movie and the Tai chimps

Hard nuts to crack – the chimps cracking nuts with tools

Fall of Brutus – the confrontation between two dominant males that takes place over a bonanza of nuts

Eat them before they eat you – where chimps use tools to eat safari ants and a leaf sponge to drink water

Christophe Boesch has his extensive publications available for download at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. One recent publication is: Is Culture a Golden Barrier between Chimpanzees and Humans? where he argues that chimpanzees display a broad cultural repertoire, similar to humans. He wrote a 2001 piece for Scientific American on The Cultures of Chimpanzees. And if you want to know more about cooperative hunting, here’s a 2002 Human Nature paper on that.

Update: I have posted another spectacular video of chimpanzee hunting, including infrared views of their group tactics from the air as they hunt a pack of colobus monkeys.

2 thoughts on “Chimpanzees: Too Close for Comfort

  1. Christophe Boesche and colleagues have just reported an alarming decline in the chimpanzee population in the Ivory Coast, including a tenth of the assumed population size in Tai Forest:

    The pressing need to base conservation policy on up-to-date data is underlined by the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. For instance, Marahoué NP is listed as a priority site with an estimated population of 900 chimpanzees (information from the Woods Hole Research Center’s website); however, our 2007 survey of 167.5 km of transects distributed throughout the park yielded a conservative population estimate of fewer than 50 individuals (unpublished data). Even in Taï NP, thought to represent one of the main refuges for chimpanzees within Côte d’Ivoire, our 2006–2007 survey along 362 km of transects revealed that only about 480 individuals survive, a tenth of the assumed population size (Campbell et al. 2008:R904).

    For more information, see Primatology.Net The reference is:

    Campbell G, Kuehl H, Kouamé PN, Boesch C. 2008. Alarming decline of West African chimpanzees in Côte d’Ivoire. Current Biology 18, R903-R904.

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