Thursday, 24 June 2010

Chimps, Too, Wage War and Annex Rival Territory

From the New York Times.
Most days the male chimps behave a lot like frat boys, making a lot of noise or beating each other up. But once every 10 to 14 days, they do something more adult and cooperative: they wage war.

A band of males, up to 20 or so, will assemble in single file and move to the edge of their territory. They fall into unusual silence as they penetrate deep into the area controlled by the neighboring group. They tensely scan the treetops and startle at every noise. “It’s quite clear that they are looking for individuals of the other community,” Dr. Mitani says.

When the enemy is encountered, the patrol’s reaction depends on its assessment of the opposing force. If they seem to be outnumbered, members of the patrol will break file and bolt back to home territory. But if a single chimp has wandered into their path, they will attack. Enemy males will be held down, then bitten and battered to death. Females are usually let go, but their babies will be eaten.
There's nothing in this article that didn't happen fifty years ago - and doesn't still happen to some extent - in the New Guinea Highlands - though the kids are usually just slain, not eaten, and the women raped.

We share 98% of our DNA - but then, we share 50% with flatworms. So that 2% is a rather greater difference than it appears.

Nonetheless.. these are people. Not human. Subhuman. But people nonetheless, an intelligent species. And uncomfortably like us. When civilised, quite good people. But when in a situation of barbarity, ruthless, savage and cruel. And I'm not saying that those members of H.Sapiens in New Guinea are subhuman; I'm saying that Chimps, if removed from a non-technological setting, would be people too.

To see how we - both the New Guinea Highlanders and myself - are similar in many ways to Pan Troglodites, just watch this video, from 48 years ago. Note the use of technology, the watchtowers. These people are as bright as I am, possibly more so.

Things are changing though. Technology is affecting the situation, and a situation that has lasted for tens of thousands of years is now untenable. Weapons exist now that make the old methods of warfare obsolete. Weapons too terrible to use.

I think it's only a matter of time before our cousins get taught to use AK-47s. They're ignorant - but intelligent enough. And then that will be the end of them, as they may be stronger in hand-to-hand combat, but we're better at using technology. And just as ruthless in the face of a threat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If history has demonstrated anything, it is that no weapon is too terrible to use.