In a remote forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, researchers have recently discovered a huge community of chimpanzees, perhaps one of the last surviving “mega-cultures” of the species. A mega-culture is a large population of chimps who share a common set of customs and behavior. This possible mega-culture occupies some 50,000 square miles (130,000 square km) of forestland in the DRC.

The chimps are distinguished by their uncommonly large frames, unusual eating habits (including giant African snails) and other distinctive characteristics.

From the Guardian:

This is one of the few places left on Earth with a huge continuous population of chimps. We estimate many thousands of individuals, perhaps tens of thousands.

—Cleve Hicks, primatologist, Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany

A group of chimps groom each other in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. Pic: Ikiwaner (Wikimedia Commons)

A group of chimps groom each other in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. Pic: Ikiwaner (Wikimedia Commons)

Some more good news involving chimpanzees is that one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Merck & Co., together with 24 other drug companies and laboratories, has announced that it will stop using chimpanzees and other great apes for research. However, the news is hollow for the chimps already living in labs. They will not all be retired until 2020 when the phase out is completed.

In other chimp news, recent research into wild chimpanzee behavior reveals that those chimps who share food with each other experience raised levels of oxytocin, otherwise known as the “love hormone”. Oxytocin levels in wild chimps were observed to increase more than twice the amount it did after grooming. The increase was observed in both the giver and the receiver of food.

Lehmann, an evolutionary anthropologist at Roehampton University, UK, gave her opinion on the study to the Daily Mail:

[The results] appear to support the idea that food sharing can extend social benefits normally found in animals who are related to each other to those dining partners who aren’t related. I also find it very interesting that the direction of the food sharing does not affect the results, i.e. it is not better to receive than to give  – or the other way around – at least not in terms of oxytocin level.

Check out this cool video of tool using eastern chimpanzees in the DRC:

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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