What we find is that over these 40-odd years that I and others have been studying
chimpanzees and the other great apes, and, as I say, other mammals with complex brains and social systems, we have found that after all, there isn’t a sharp line dividing humans from the rest of the animal kingdom, it’s a very wuzzy line and it’s getting wuzzier all the time as we find animals doing things that we, in our arrogance, used to think was just
human. The chimps — there’s no time to discuss
their fascinating lives, but they have this long childhood, five years of suckling and sleeping with the mother, and then another three, four or five years of emotional dependence on her, even when the next child is born. The importance of learning in that time, when behavior is flexible, and there’s an awful lot to learn in chimpanzee society. The long-term affectionate supportive bonds that develop throughout this long childhood with the mother, with the brothers and sisters, and which can last through a lifetime, which may be up to 60 years. They can actually live longer than 60 in captivity, so we’ve only done 40 years in the wild so far, and we find chimps are capable of true compassion and altruism. We find in their non-verbal communication — this is very rich they have a lot of sounds, which they use in different circumstances, but they also use touch, posture, gesture, and what do they do? They kiss; they embrace; they hold hands; they pat one another on the back; they swagger; they shake their fist. The kind of things that we do, and they do them in the same kind of context. They have very sophisticated cooperation. Sometimes they hunt — not that often, but when they hunt, they show sophisticated cooperation, and they share the prey. We find that they show emotions, similar to — maybe sometimes the same, as those that we describe in ourselves as happiness, sadness, fear, despair. They know mental as well as physical suffering, and I don’t have time to go into the information that will prove some of these things to you, save to say that there are very bright students, in the best universities, studying emotions in animals, studying personalities in animals. We know that chimpanzees and some other creatures can recognize themselves in mirrors, “self” as opposed to “other.” They have a sense of humor, and these are the kind of things, which traditionally, have been thought of as human prerogatives. But this teaches us a new respect and it’s a new respect not only for the chimpanzees, I suggest, but some of the other amazing animals, with whom we share this planet.