KEITHVILLE, LOUISIANA– Humans are social creatures and as we go through this particular time, we should take extra care to make sure we are mentally healthy, as we continue to socially distance ourselves. But have you ever wondered from where or when our social nature originates?
With over 98 percent of our DNA the same, nothing hangs closer on the branches of our genetic family tree as the chimpanzee. Amy Fultz is the Director of Behavior & Research at Chimp Haven and says, “Chimpanzees and people are very much alike in a lot of different ways. They are individuals, just like we’re individuals. They have individual wants and needs. A lot of people don’t know, they have finger prints just like we do.”
Chimp Haven has been around for close to 15 years ears in north Louisiana. It has grown from having rescued two chimpanzees to now having over 300 that call the 200-acre-sanctuary home. Each individual has a story and Fultz says, “Chimpanzees in the past have been used in research on human diseases, so chimpanzees on the past have been able to get sick with some of the same things people can get. At the haven, they even take some of the same medicines that we do.” In regards to the coronavirus, Chimp Haven has been taking extra care to keep both the apes and ape relative-employees safe with social distancing.
In the wild, chimpanzees live in groups of over a hundred and they are found along the equatorial belt of Africa. They are smart and use tools to harvest termites from mounds and Amy Fultz says she was astonished when she noticed one day that a chimpanzee had fashioned him a makeshift spear to defend his family against a snake. “Chimpanzees will actually hug one another for reassurance, so they do a lot of things that we recognize as ways that humans interact with one another as well and they are always communicating with each other, either through vocalization or touch.”
It can be unsettling to gaze in the eyes of primates, and if you are not careful, you might find yourself and perhaps the roots of our own story and the beginning of our social interdependence in our society. To learn even more about the beautiful apes at Chimp Haven, every week, Chimp Haven offers free virtual lessons about the animals at the sanctuary.