Lethal Violence in Chimps Occurs Naturally, Study Suggests

James Gorman, New York Times, September 17, 2014

Are chimpanzees naturally violent to one another, or has the intrusion of humans into their environment made them aggressive?

A study published Wednesday in Nature is setting off a new round of debate on the issue.

The study’s authors argue that a review of all known cases of when chimpanzees or bonobos in Africa killed members of their own species shows that violence is a natural part of chimpanzee behavior and not a result of actions by humans that push chimpanzee aggression to lethal attacks. The researchers say their analysis supports the idea that warlike violence in chimpanzees is a natural behavior that evolved because it could provide more resources or territory to the killers, at little risk.

But critics say the data shows no such thing, largely because the measures of human impact on chimpanzees are inadequate.


In studying chimpanzee violence, “we’re trying to make inferences about human evolution,” said Michael L. Wilson, an anthropologist at the University of Minnesota and a study organizer.

There is no disagreement about whether chimpanzees kill one another, or about some of the claims that Dr. Wilson and his 29 co-authors make.

The argument is about why chimpanzees kill. Dr. Wilson and the other authors, who contributed data on killings from groups at their study sites, say the evidence shows no connection between human impact on the chimpanzee sites and the number of killings.

He said the Ngogo group of chimpanzees in Uganda “turned out to be the most violent group of chimpanzees there is,” even though the site was little disturbed by humans.

They have a pristine habitat, he said, and “they go around and kill their neighbors.”

Robert Sussman, an anthropologist at Washington University who supports the idea that human actions put pressure on chimpanzee societies that results in killings, was dismissive of the paper. “The statistics don’t tell me anything,” he said. “They haven’t established lack of human interference.”



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  • baldowl

    I’ll be the first to not come out and draw parallels.

    • Kenner

      The mod will be busier than a one-armed paper-hanger.

      • Brittany William

        Kenner before I saw the draft which had said $9775, I didn‘t believe that my mother in law woz truley erning money part time at their laptop.. there neighbor has been doing this 4 only about a year and resently repaid the debts on their mini mansion and purchased a top of the range Fiat Multipla. go to,…C&#97&#x73&#104&#83t&#111&#x72&#101d&#46&#x43&#111&#77

        • Person of Whiteness

          If you’re looking for gullible people who’ll fall for this, try a liberal website.

        • me

          Try the Huffy Post, or Daily Beasty, if you want gullible and useful idiots.

        • propagandaoftruth

          I’m starting a new business with a fantastic visionary friend of mine, a real out-of-the-boxer type, you know, Brittany? Are you from Brittan, by the way?

          It’s all about squeezing lemonade out of lemons, and that’s got “internet” and “money” sprayed all over it, if you get my vector.

          Brittany, tell me something. What do wealthy pedophiles and bonobos have in common? You know the bonobos, right? The cute little chimpos who hardly ever kill each other and are always getting it on with each other in the wildest and most delightfully disturbing manner? Not he face ripping pans troglodytis guys referenced in the article, but real, cute little hairy nymphos and satyrs for whom the craziest debauchery imaginable is as ho hum and natural as flopping breasts in a Game of Thrones scene.

          And make no mistake, Brittanny, this is no cruelty to animals. The bonobo is in dire danger in his natural habitat, hunted down and sought after by his slightly more intelligent cousins the sub-Saharan bush Bantu for food, sport, and rough sex to the point of extinction.

          All our bonobos will be screened and vaccinated, house broken and properly socialized, and will come in a variety of models such as “Sailor Mike”, and “Pippy Shortstuffings” or “Little Choir Angel”.
          Brittany, this is the shot, dear. Please check out our website at www (dot) bonobosexape (dot) com for ways to invest in this fabulous once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity. You can get rich interacting with pedophiles over he internet and selling them real live bonobo sex apes! Wow!

          • Kenner

            Genious!! That is awesome!!

    • The best parallel is that some of the dingbat “scientists” are blaming humans. I’ll bet these doofs will also believe Brittany’s laughable claims about being able to make elebenty seben gazillion dollars online from home.

  • BillMillerTime

    “…violence is a natural part of chimpanzee behavior…”

    How could anyone possibly say something so mean, so hurtful, so….(wait for it)…RACIST!

    Every right-thinking liberal and conservative knows that it’s either (A) the legacy of specie-ism; or (B) inadequate opportunity afforded chimpanzee youth due to government-sponsored destruction of the chimpanzee family unit.

    • Robert Binion

      Yes, it’s part of the jungle canopy to prison pipeline.

    • There’s also inexcusable unwillingness of Hollywood to cast chimpanzees in positive movie roles.

  • MekongDelta69

    “Lethal Violence in Chimps Blacks Occurs Naturally, Study Suggests”

    The New York Slimes thinks it’s White people’s fault, of course.

    • BillMillerTime

      “He said the Ngogo group in Uganda ‘turned out to be the most violent group of there is.’ ”

      Wait, was there a typo? 😛

      • MekongDelta69

        Yep. He meant to say, “Chicongo” (Illinois) instead of “Ngogo.”

        He apologizes…

    • Haereticus

      That’s spooky. By replacing the string ‘chimpanzee’ with a word referring to a specific color, the resulting text reads like a very convincing anthropological theory, Robert Sussman sounds like a typical apologist making excuses for appalling behavior.

      • Either that, or it was a satire, and Sussman has a fine career ahead of him writing for The Onion.

        • TL2014

          Wish it were so. As it is, he has a fine career in mainstream academia, poisoning innocent children’s minds.

  • AmericanCitizen

    Was this article written in code, and is actually about inner city Chicago? Use Chicago neighborhoods as the place names, inner city black for chimp, white people for human, and the story still makes a lot of sense.

    • John R

      Liberal America today is like the former Soviet Union. To save your job, you must right things in code and reply on your audience to read between the lines.

      • Alexandra1973

        Communism isn’t dead, it’s alive and well here in the USSA.

    • Basketeddie

      You beat me to it. I also viewed this is as an allegory. And an obvious one at that. Maybe the editors of the NYT were having some fun, although more likely, they were asleep at the wheel.

      • John R

        Something tells me that a few junior editors got called on the carpet for that one.

    • TL2014

      Small correction – any inner city with a black population in the country. Not just Chicago, come on.

      • AmericanCitizen

        True. Newark, Camden, Philadelphia, Detroit, St Louis, New Orleans, LA, and a host of other once great cities could play host to this story.

        Isn’t diversity great?

  • Mack0

    Hmmmm, the rationalization for violent behavior suggested by the researchers is awful familiar. Makes you wonder what they really think about blacks.

  • Samuel_Morton

    I doubt that even NYT readers suspect that chimp violence is the result of human pressures…unless those meddlers are white Europeans. Those pesky Europeans have somehow oppressed everyone who is currently living in poverty while greedily ingratiating themselves. Never mind that sub-Saharan Africa was a violent, dreadful place long before an paleface ever dreamed to step foot there. It was still the fault of whites, through osmosis or something not yet conceived of.

    So of course chimps were peace-loving teddy bears, that is until those villainous Europeans had their say.

    • Adolf Verloc

      Good point. If it were hunting and mistreatment by humans that was making chimps vicious, it wouldn’t be whites who were responsible for it. But the idea of non-violent chimps seems pretty ridiculous in any case.

    • me

      Da ebil Whitey debbil done gone after da poor chimps now! Oh, Lordy Jeebus! Dey jes be innocent lil’ chimps, till de Crakka come along an’ ruint it!
      A chimpout is a chimpout is a chimpout…..

  • Easyrhino

    This one is like shooting fish in a barrel, I’m going to have to pass on commenting.

    • John R

      I know. A nature article that someone put on this website, and the moderator allowed it. No deep interpretation is required. We got the point.

      • Alexandra1973

        And I can imagine the slew of jokes we want to post but don’t dare to. LOL

  • pcmustgo

    I read on a psychology website that chimps are violent and manipulative, orangutangs are avoidant, and banobos are clingy or something. It was talking about personality styles in humans and these primates.

  • Stiv44

    If they were talking about chimps in captivity I would believe that it’s human caused. Chimps are more than intelligent enough to feel frustration

    • OS-Q

      I could believe that, most animals tend to squabble more when jammed together.

      But the detractors in this case feel that Chimps are sweet and innocent when we can’t see them.

  • When blacks act stupid, form flash mobs, etc., it’s not called chimping out for nothing.

    Chimps are native to Africa and blacks are native to Africa. Both groups go around killing their neighbors. But egalitarian scientists can’t abide by a genetic explanation for that. So, they come up with a preposterous idea like humans make chimps kill. And whites drive blacks to kill.

    Science will have to do better than that. We’re not stupid enough to believe this nonsense.

    • Bossman

      There’s another type of ape closely related to chimps and humans called the Bonobos. They prefer to make love than to fight and the females have a lot of power in their society.

      • Yancy Derringer

        Right up front the article says bonobos kill each other.

    • IstvanIN

      I used to watch documentaries about primates and came to the conclusion a long time ago, that chimps general body movements and actions are very similar to the way blacks act when they are acting “naturally”. I am not being a smart guy in saying this either, there is a stunning similarity.

      • John R

        Good observations.

  • Usually Much Calmer

    “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” -Philip K. Dick

    “They haven’t established lack of human interference.” says Robert Sussman. You and David Hume can play this game all day, Dr. Sussman. The rest of us will go about our lives.

  • Adolf Verloc

    ” “The statistics don’t tell me anything,” he said. “They haven’t established lack of human interference.”” Who are you going to believe, me or your own lyin’ numbers? I suppose one could adopt a sort of Zen approach by which only those chimps that we never see can be said to have authentic chimp behavior.

    Realistically, most wildlife biologists see plenty of evidence that chimps are rather nasty distant cousins. They fight wars, kill males from other groups mercilessly (and often eat them) and are generally pretty vicious creatures. When you see a cute chimp in a movie or on TV, you are seeing a very young one. By the time they reach six or seven, the males in particular are usually uncontrollable.

    • OS-Q

      They make horrible pets when they grow up, and tend to go for the groin when they attack.

      • John R

        Or, the face, as in that horrific news story. They don’t call them “animals” for nothing.

        • Adolf Verloc

          A lot of ignorant people forget that. They get a chimp or a lion or a tiger and are surprised when it acts like a wild animal. It IS a wild animal, for chrissakes! Dogs and cats went through thousands of years of domestication and selective breeding and we still sometimes get “bad ‘uns.” Other animals belong in the wild or in a zoo or research center.

          • OS-Q

            Chris Rock: “The tiger didn’t ‘go crazy’ the tiger went tiger!”

            Clear physical evidence of domestication in cats show that they have an extra two feet in the length of their intestines – an evolution to adjust to eating scraps from people, as opposed to strictly eating vermin and carrion.

            I’ve worked with a (fixed) feral cat for about a 8 months now, it has not gotten any friendlier. I’m sure there are examples of wild animals that go the other way (friendly or calm) but these are undoubtedly uncommon.

            My neighbor had very intimidating looking half-wolf that was probably one of the best dogs I’ve ever known, it guarded his chickens for him, and played (gently) with his cat.

            Tame full wolves tend to be jumpy and nip, but I’d trust them before I’d trust a pet chimp, yikes. I’d trust a big cat more a chimp for that matter.

  • Luca

    The word “chimpanzee” seems to be eerily interchangeable with another word I am thinking about. Ne-ne-ne- nevermind.

    • Who Me?

      You’re right, but we can’t go there…

    • Ike Eichenberg


  • Bossman

    Bonobos who are cousins of the Chimps are peaceful apes. They prefer to have sex than to fight. And the females don’t take any sh**t from the males.

    • OS-Q

      Most of the stuff claimed about Bonobos are what used to be claimed about Chimps decades ago, such as such as chimps being peaceful vegetarians with no borders between large groups of them. I think they are more peaceful than Chimps but probably are vicious in their own ways.

      I understand that Baboons are probably the worst of the primates.

      • Adolf Verloc

        Baboons are fierce and travel in troops. Even lions leave them alone unless they can catch one by itself.

  • Rick O’Shea

    So liberals want us to believe these gentle creatures are naturally chim-pansies in the absence of negative human influences?

    Why am I not surprised? How long til the study which shows that it is exclusively white, heterosexual, cis-gendered male humans who create this violence inducing aura of influence on chimps?

    Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if lions were vegan before the first great white hunter showed up.

  • E_Pluribus_Pluribus

    Long-time NYT science reporter Nicholas Wade’s new book, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History has good accounts of chimp behavior. A couple of highlights:

    *Male chimps are “fiercely territorial” and “unremittingly hostile towards strange males, whom they will kill on sight.”

    *Male chimps, when they reach puberty, stay in the territory. To avoid inbreeding females mostly disperse. This may be related to the chimp and human propensity for warfare, which needs male cohesion.

    On the chimp-to-human transition:

    *A fierce drought 6.5 million to 5 million years ago likely forced chimps to separate, with one group leaving the trees, leading to upright walking and ”mate guarding,” necessary in a more dangerous environment.

    *Upright walking had the accidental but far-reaching effect of freeing the hands.

    *Children protected by two parents could have extra years to develop, meaning children could be born earlier with the brain doing more of its growth outside the womb. The human brain would eventually become 3X the size of a chimp’s brain.

    Wade goes on to discuss, plausibly, the effect of weapons on the development of “pair bonding” (it became dangerous to try to defend more than one female), the resulting knowledge by children of both their fathers (and vice versa) and mothers and in-laws, hence the development of tribes.

    • Adolf Verloc

      I thought that Wade’s book was the most remarkable popular book on behavioral genetics since “The Bell Curve.” Not just scientifically interesting but a real pleasure to read. Needless to say, it has been condemned by all Right Thinkers.

      • E_Pluribus_Pluribus

        I agree, though I am only half way through it, as I am filling up the margins with notes — and am temporarily side-tracked with supplementary reading: The Cartoon Guide to Genetics by Gonick and Wheelis to help solidify Wade’s insights.

  • 4321realist

    So how does human contact have anything to do with aggressiveness in chimpanzees, and what kind of human contact is to blame?

    Is it the opinion of radical leftist academics that human colonialism is to blame, or racism in some form, or were a few chimps slaves at one time and somehow communicated this knowledge to other chimps which prompted violent behavior?

    These same “researchers” have to be careful and muddle the issue with nonsense or somebody might get the impression that a propensity for violence in mammals is inbred and not caused by humans.

    And they might go so far as to reason that race is not a social construct, and we aren’t really the same after all.

    It would be a death blow to their delusions of a rainbow utopia if the truth were ever to get out.

    Maybe they can call in Flynn to distort some research and come up with some bogus, manipulated findings that show a direct correlation to violence in chimpanzees and contact with humans.

    They’d better do something quickly, because data like this could lead to the conclusion that humans too are responsible for their own deplorable behavior and actions and nobody else.

    • LHathaway

      How about we just stay away from them to avoid contaminating them?

    • Usually Much Calmer

      Oh, you ask too many questions.

      We’re just BAD. Don’t make things complicated. Now, go sit in your hole and feel pitiful. And whatever you do, don’t replicate.

  • John R

    So, chimps are naturally violent, but all this time, people have been blamed for this violence that chimps would do regardless. Strange. It sort of reminds me of something else….

    • Dave West

      I guess Siberian tigers in the remote Russian Far-East are violent due to all those people out there encroaching on their territory!

  • evilsandmich

    .Lethal Violence in Chimps Occurs Naturally
    But other scientists blame people for chimp violence
    Make that ‘white’ people and it’d be a double duh

  • Bryce Armstrong

    Amazing, evan in the animal kingdom were subjected to this societal pressure be. Isn’t there anywhere to excape?

  • ghettovalley

    Insert obvious joke here.

  • MBlanc46

    I’m surprised that anyone thought differently. Everything I’ve ever read on common chimps has emphasized their aggressiveness and murderousness toward outsiders.

    • OS-Q

      It used to be common in the old days to idealize primates – Jane Goodall herself was surprised by footage of chimps hunting down monkeys for meat.

      Planet of the Apes was written during this period: You see them eating fruit exclusively and the law of “Ape shall not kill ape” is mentioned frequently

  • HJ11

    Gene wars are a necessary part of evolution as genotypes try to be king of the hill.

  • Demo P. Seal; PouponMarks

    We need funding for studies on the random violence of the North American Pavement Ape.

    • Kenner

      And more cages.

      • Melvin Bonzarelli

        Planting more large trees in the inner cities will improve public transportation and help these folks get to their non-jobs faster.

  • IKUredux

    You know, I’m for “Hope and Change”. I’m hoping things change right now. You know, I find this whole ISIS “lone wolf” concept fascinating. I guess “wolf packs” come under far more scrutiny.

  • BillMillerTime

    I followed the link to the original story at The NYT. Apparently there’s no place for reader comments. HHmmm……. does The Times even allow reader comments anymore?

    • Melvin Bonzarelli

      I stopped paying attention to those ‘nature’ stories in the NYT way back when that newspaper did a series of articles about two male penguins in the Bronx Zoo who evidently set up housekeeping together, even building a nest and taking turns sitting on the empty nest as if to hatch an egg. The NYT was positively ecstatic over this, since to them it ‘proved’ that homosexual bondings (they couldn’t bring themselves to use the word, ‘marriage’, when referring to penguins) were quite the norm in the animal kingdom, of which we humans are a part. We humans, according to the Times’ way of thinking, are just large featherless penguins. Which, if you have studied orthodox Marxist thought as taught in the Soviet Union during the darkest days of Stalinism, is actually not a far stretch in Marxist thought.

  • Basketeddie

    I don’t understand the point of this article and why, of all places, it is on amren. Where is the connection to race realism in an article that talks about wanton violence among chimpanzees originating from Africa and placing the blame for this violence on the action of humans?

    • joe pat

      If you can’t see the obvious and hilarious parallel between liberal blame of American black violent behavior as somehow being the fault of white males, then I suggest you read a few more articles.

      It is the same liberal/marxist/equality thinking at play.

      Someone who loves chimps just can’t bear the thought that they have innate violence. Must be a white man around somewhere to blame…

      • Basketeddie

        Of course I get it! I should have added *(sarc)* to my comment.

    • Melvin Bonzarelli

      All animals have a inborn propensity for violence. In almost all cases, that violence is used to protect territory, secure food or for protection of self and the defenseless young. I have personally seen a mother rabbit attack and injure a squirrel that was trying to take one of her newborn rabbits out of her nest. The article, and similar studies not referenced here (see Jane Goodall, for example), point out that only the highest orders of apes – chimps, bonobo chimps, and Man, appear to seek out and inflict violence on others of their species without any logical reason other than violence for its own sake.
      European civilization has, with notable exceptions, largely succeeded in suppressing this gratuitous violence by various means, some more successful than others – economic opportunity, peer pressure, religion, strong law enforcement, etc.
      The collapse of civil society in the inner cities of our country, along with the increase in gratuitous violence, shows these neighborhoods reverting to the original, pre-civilization, state of nature of the higher apes.

      • me

        This always makes me laugh….

        • Melvin Bonzarelli

          Ms Goodall always struck me as a little weird. Her most loving descriptions of the chimps she observed over decades in the jungle seemed to be reserved for the big, strong, Alpha males and up and coming Alpha males wannabees in the troop. Weighing almost two hundred pounds, about the height of a man, with two to three times the strength of an adult male human, the males may have inspired Ms Goodall to ‘go chimp’ at some time during those long, lonely, hot steamy nights in the jungle.
          Ok, so she strikes me as a lot weird. What can I say?

          • me

            God, what a mental picture you paint! BTW, the gorilla’s penis is only three inches long. Ha ha!

  • joe pat

    I’m surprised someone didn’t blame chimpanzee behavior exclusively on white men and ‘colonial legacy’ rather than on the human interactions they have with the 99.9% black populations where they live…

  • kikz2

    i’d wondered how long it would take this to happen….. Man bitten by ebola infected feral…..


  • Transpower

    Chimps are soul-less bio-units. I always chuckle when I hear about liberals and their pet chimps; liberals think that animals are like people and are surprised when they get attacked by their pet chimps!

    • Stiv44

      There is far more to most higher mammals than being “bio-units”.

      I don’t think that way and I’m not a ‘liberal’.

  • Melvin Bonzarelli

    If Uganda had laws requiring a thorough background check and a thirty-day waiting period before chimpanzees could purchase a firearm, and vigorously enforced those laws, incidents of violence among the chimp population would drop dramatically.

  • Melvin Bonzarelli

    Get yourself a first edition of the English language translation of the book, Planet of the Apes, by Pierre Boulle (who also wrote ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’). Yes, the book that spawned a half dozen movies, several good sci-fi, the rest D-level dribble.
    Subsequent editions of the book were sanitized by the publisher, but the original French version, as well as the original English translation, was anything but science fiction. It was a racial allegory, pure and simple. The brutish, muscular Gorillas, the soldiers and police, were the blacks, the more intelligent chimpanzees were the government bureaucrats and scientists, they were the brown races. The most intelligent apes, the top scientists and heads of the governments were depicted as orangutans, i.e. the Oriental races (Chinese, Japanese).
    And the hunted and enslaved humans were the white races.
    Get the book out of your library, try to get an edition as close to the original English-language publication date. Vanguard Press put out the first English language edition in 1963. The later versions of the book, what is available on Amazon, for example, are books based on the movie(s). They are not worth reading. The earliest edition preserves the original intent of the author.

  • Nancy

    Mr. Taylor has a funny sense of humor. 😉

  • Paleoconn

    Sometimes chimps blackout.

  • TL2014

    I wonder how many leftist nytimes readers had to suppress the obvious thoughts and association that must have kept cropping and creeping up while reading this article….

  • Jimmy Barron

    Jane Goodall, a leading- if not THE leading- world primatologist said ( I paraphrase here)

    “I began my observations believing that chimpanzees were better than people. They are not. They’re murderous, predatory and cannibalistic”.

    After decades of study, this once beloved and renowned scientist faced ostracism from
    her peers who accused her of “biased opinions” caused by her interference which she
    vehemently denied and volunteered to prove. To no avail, of course.

    Does this remind anyone of any particular aspect of our own society?

    I often see (on video of one kind or another) good intentioned white ‘animal lovers” who “adopt” chimpanzees and seek to raise them as children.

    One couple went as far as posing for a family picture with their two small children, fair haired and dressed in white, including a hairy and black monkey they had adopted and had dressed in similar clothing.

    How absolutely disgusting.

    And disgraceful.

    The number of these “animal lovers” who have been hideously and permanently maimed-
    even killed- when these surrogate humans eventually turn on them, acting in instinct which is intrinsically VIOLENT to the species, is disproportionately high.

    Given our new mindset in this country, I would assume the behavior is the result of the
    chimpanzees frustration and identity crisis due to “human privilege”.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid people.

    America is lost.