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DateLine Sunday, 3 June 2007

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The "Morning Calm" in flight magazine of the Korean Air line carried an interesting feature article on chimpanzees that made me to share it with the readers. Most interesting was the paintings done by the chimps and at what price they are sold. Another feature is how the chimps face stress. I quote below from the original article.
 

The human blueprint is not the intractable mystery it once was. Though many of the links between our DNA and the finished human being are not yet clear, the study of our genes does confirm one thing: We humans are fundamentally no different to any other creature on Earth.

And there are some with which we are especially close - chimpanzees.

Homo sapiens share well over 90 percent of our genes with chimps, and humans and chimpanzees diverged from a common ancestor just a few million years ago.

Yet there's so much more to it than microscopic genes. Chimpanzees, like humans, inhabit a complex social world of reciprocity, competition and loyalty. They use tools to retrieve food, clean themselves and dominate their adversaries. They are self-aware. Scientists have even struggled to teach chimps sign language, with some success."

"From Art to War Culture among chimps can even go beyond tasks for survival. Desmond Morris, a surrealist painter as well as a famed expert on primates, exhibited the abstract impressionist artwork of Congo, a young chimpanzee, in the 1950s. Picasso is said to have hung one of Congo's pieces on his wall, and last year some of the chimp's work was sold in London for over US$26,000, outselling the auctions's Warhol and Renoir."

"In the wild, chimpanzees live in fluctuating groups of several dozen. Fertile female give birth about once every five years, and chimp children don't willingly leave their mothers until the age of three or four. The emotional bond between parent and child, and between siblings, lasts for life."

"Chimpanzees and humans also have in common the will to wage war. In 1974 in Gombe, near the coast of lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, Jane Goodall, perhaps the world's best-known chimpanzee expert, and her team of researchers observed a "four-year war" in which one group of chimpanzees systematically eliminated every last member of another, in a conflict as vicious and brutal as any human struggle over territory or pride might be."

"Humanism But These apes also grieve, and fall into depression. one month after the death of Flo, an ape Goodall observed for many years, her adult son Flint stopped caring for himself and died of a weak immune system.

Ai Ai, a 27 year-old chimp in a Chinese zoo, began to smoke stray cigarettes when her mate died in 1989. Another Chinese chimp took up cigarettes, her keeper said, because her elderly mate couldn't meet her sexual demands".

"With such human-like behaviour, and such similar genetic codes, some bioethics say the logical next step is to afford chimpanzees the human rights they deserve.

At the very least, chimpanzees have much left to teach us, not only about the development and evolution of the human mind and body, but more urgently about the precursor to the AIDS virus, which infected African chimps before it mutated and moved to humans. And perhaps it is Jane Goodall - who began her academic career by insisting her scientific writings use "he, "she" and "who" rather than "it" and "which" to refer to chimps who puts it best "how should we relate to beings who look into mirrors and see themselves as individuals, who mourn companions and may die of grief, who have a consciousness of self?

"Don't they deserve to be treated with the same sort of consideration we accord to other highly sensitive beings: ourselves?"

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