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Like humans, chimpanzees have cops too

Last Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 15:02

Washington: Seems like chimpanzees also understand that sound conflict management is crucial to ensure peace and order in their group.
This form of conflict management is called “policing” – the impartial intervention of a third party in a conflict.

Until now, this morally motivated behaviour in chimpanzees was only ever documented anecdotally.

However, primatologists from the University of Zurich can now confirm that chimpanzees intervene impartially in a conflict to guarantee the stability of their group.

They therefore exhibit prosocial behaviour based on an interest in community concern.

The willingness of the arbitrators to intervene impartially is greatest if several quarrelers are involved in a dispute as such conflicts particularly jeopardize group peace.

The researchers observed and compared the behaviour of four different captive chimpanzee groups.

At Walter Zoo in Gossau, they encountered special circumstances: “We were lucky enough to be able to observe a group of chimpanzees into which new females had recently been introduced and in which the ranking of the males was also being redefined. The stability of the group began to waver. This also occurs in the wild,” explained Claudia Rudolf von Rohr, the lead author of the study.

Not every chimpanzee makes a suitable arbitrator. It is primarily high-ranking males or females or animals that are highly respected in the group that intervene in a conflict.

Otherwise, the arbitrators are unable to end the conflict successfully. As with humans, there are also authorities among chimpanzees.

“The interest in community concern that is highly developed in us humans and forms the basis for our moral behaviour is deeply rooted. It can also be observed in our closest relatives,” concluded Rudolf von Rohr.


First Published: Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 14:19
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