the death of a chimpanzee
August 1, 2019 4:38 PM   Subscribe

It started as a good day. As usual, Kevin Langergraber got up at dawn to follow and observe the chimpanzees of Ngogo, in Uganda’s Kibale National Park. An anthropologist from Arizona State University, he has been studying the group for 19 summers. This year, food has been scarce, and so have the chimps. But yesterday Langergraber found a group of 30 adults playing and relaxing, with infants crawling all over them. “It was just me and 30 chimps,” he says. “I was so happy. And it just turned so quickly.” Later in the day, the chimps were on the move, traversing a familiar route between two stretches of forest. Shortly after they reentered the trees, Langergraber, who was right behind them, heard one of them scream. He thought they had stumbled onto a buffalo or an elephant, but when he ran up to them, he was shocked to see two people. Poachers. Ed Yong writes for the Atlantic about the poaching of a chimpanzee.

The Ngogo Chimpanzee Project has been conducting research on endangered Ugandan chimpanzees since 1993. We've learned a lot about chimpanzees from this field site - the largest single chimpanzee community - especially about chimpanzee aggression and warfare, altruism, and motherhood.

And we know that the loss of individual chimpanzees has tragic consequences not just for the group, but for the species. previously

“Sometimes in the rush to conserve the species, I think we forget about the individuals,” says Cat Hobaiter, a primatologist at the University of St. Andrews. “Each population, each community, even each generation of chimpanzees is unique. An event might only have a small impact on the total population of chimpanzees, but it may wipe out an entire community—an entire culture. No matter what we do to restore habitat or support population growth, we may never be able to restore that culture.”
posted by ChuraChura (8 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
(Friend link caveat: I know all the people interviewed in all these articles. I've never worked at Ngogo.)
posted by ChuraChura at 4:39 PM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

posted by Secretariat at 4:45 PM on August 1, 2019

Oh god, this sounds horribly depressing. But important. Thanks for sharing it.

I think it's critical that we do what we can to preserve chimpanzees as a biological species, and zoos and captive breeding programs can play a role if well structured and sensitive to the complex psychological needs of our closest cousins. But even if we're able to do that, Hobaiter's point is a really good one that we can easily still lose entire chimpanzee cultures as wild populations are threatened with poaching and habitat loss, and this is also a terrible loss for which there is no remedy with captive populations.
posted by biogeo at 4:49 PM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

An event might only have a small impact on the total population of chimpanzees, but it may wipe out an entire community—an entire culture.

Relatedly, from Claire Greenwell on Twitter:
Following the release of my paper on how a single, desexed cat killed 6 adult Fairy Terns, ~40 chicks and led to the abandonment of an entire colony of 220 birds, The Atlantic has picked up the story. Please, if you own a cat, keep it indoors.
The article.
posted by Lexica at 5:13 PM on August 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

For Kidman and her children: .
posted by sallybrown at 5:50 PM on August 1, 2019

I'm sorry, but ASSHOLES!!
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 6:53 PM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ugh I assumed the poachers were after bushmeat, which is a complicated and fucked up thing to think about, but also something that you can understand, sorta. Here they were after bushmeat, but for the hunting dogs they use to go for boar.

Geez Louise we do awful things.
posted by notyou at 9:22 PM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

posted by hydropsyche at 9:19 AM on August 2, 2019

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