Scientists had wondered whether chimpanzees were naturally violent to one another or if human influence made the animals more aggressive. A recent study disproved the theory that chimpanzee violence was caused by human impact. Researchers analyzed chimpanzees and bonobos (pygmy chimpanzee) in Africa and noticed that the mammals killed other members of their species to provide themselves with more resources and territory, ultimately becoming a more dominant primate.
The argument was supported by Dr. Michael L. Wilson, an anthropologist at the University of Minnesota and the study organizer for the research. Wilson led the 54-year study with 29 other authors and collected data on 18 chimpanzee groups in Africa. According to the researchers, there were 152 chimpanzee killings, the scientists observed 58, they inferred 41, and suspected 53 killings in 15 communities. Wilson contributed data from the Ngogo group of chimpanzees in Uganda and found that they were “the most violent group of chimpanzees there is,” even though their habitat is little disturbed by humans. The chimps just “go around and kill their neighbors.”
Other anthropologists from different universities wanted more data on the subject. Robert Sussman at Washington University continues to support the idea that humans pressure chimpanzees to act in violent ways because the statistics from Wilson’s paper did not tell him enough. “They haven’t established lack of human interference.” Humans are too involved in chimpanzee societies and the animals then reflect that human behavior. Brian Fergusan at Rutgers University held a similar view to Sussman and claimed that the impact humans have on the chimps “can’t be assessed by simple factors” organized by Wilson.
The new data changed this solid theory that human interference in chimpanzee society made the primates more violent. While some scientists remain dismissive on the paper, the data offers a new view on the argument.