The History of Chimpanzees

January 10, 2017 by Caldwell

For more than 100 years, the Africans already have contact with the chimpanzees unlike with other races. In some African villages, they were kept as a pet for many centuries particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The first recorded European contact with chimpanzees happened in 17th century in Angola. The Portuguese explorer in the name of Duarte Pacheco has a diary that was preserved in Portuguese National Archive. This diary is possibly the first document written by a European that acknowledges the ability of the chimpanzees to make basic tools.

Two Chimpanzees

The first use of the word chimpanzee as a name did not happen until the year 1738. The term chimpanzee is derived from the word ‘kivili-chimpenze’ – a Tsiluba language which means mockman or apes. The use of chimp as a colloquial term took place in late 1870’s. The biologist used Pan as chimpanzees genus name. There have been some reports that the chimpanzees including other kinds of apes were already known by Western writers during the ancient times but mostly as a legends and myths. The word ape is mentioned by Aristotle, in the English Bible as well as in Qu’ran. In 1640, the chimpanzee from Angola was the first chimp that was transferred from coast to coast .It was given to Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange as a gift and it was followed by several chimps for the next few years. . A number of chimpanzees were transported into Europe after 2 decades and most of them are acquired by different zoological gardens as a tourist attraction.

In 1859, Darwin’s theory of natural selection was published. It woke up the interest of the scientists and led to different studies of the chimpanzee facts either in wild or captivity. At that time, the observers were only interested with the behaviour of chimpanzees because of its close relation to humans. At the end of 19th century, available chimpanzee facts and scientific information are very little thus they still remained unknown to humans. Pygmies is the term used by the scientist to describe the chimpanzees.

The 20th century was the new phase of scientific research about chimpanzee facts. Prior to 1960, there was no known information about the behaviour of chimpanzees if they are living on their natural habitats. In July 1960, Jane Goodall went to Gombe forest in Tanzania and lived with the chimpanzees where she studied specifically the Kasakela community. The ground breaking point was when Goodall discovered that the chimpanzees have the ability to make and use tools.

Robert Yerkes and Wolfgang Kohler are the first psychologists who did progressive studies which focused on the intellectual ability of the chimpanzees specifically in problem-solving. They did some basic practical test that involves problem solving such as how to get a banana that is out of reach. Yerkes continued his studies and made intensive observations about chimpanzee facts until the World War II. Kohler on the hand concluded his study and published the Mentality of Apes after 5 years of study. Kohler concluded that the chimpanzees demonstrate intelligent behavior which was only attributed to humans before.

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