The Only Civil ᴡᴀʀ Ever Observed In Wild Chimpanzees

In the early 1970s, primatologist Jane Goodall and colleagues studying chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, watched as a once-unified chimp community disintegrated into two ʀɪᴠᴀʟ ғᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴs. What followed was a period of ᴋɪʟʟɪɴɢs and land grabs, the only civil ᴡᴀʀ ever observed in wild chimpanzees.

We usually associate ᴡᴀʀ with the human species. Many civilizations were founded or ᴅᴇsᴛʀᴏʏᴇᴅ because of the act of ᴡᴀʀ and it is something that continues, regardless of the price. Many would hope that through the process of evolution and the ethical development of our species, the need for ᴡᴀʀfare would be eliminated, but not as yet. ᴡᴀʀ is generally considered, according to some theorists, an integral part of human nature and as an act committed by organized societies.

Other theories suggest that ᴡᴀʀ is more primal and the idea that ᴡᴀʀ is not limited to humans received more support in the 1970s after ᴡᴀʀ-like behavior was observed in a group of our closest relatives: the chimpanzee community. It turns out we have more in common with our animalistic past than some might like to admit.

Prior to the 1970s, the funny and friendly looking chimpanzees were often regarded as a peaceful animal. They always looked cheerful and playful, without the slightest tendency toᴡᴀʀds ᴠɪᴏʟᴇɴᴄᴇ. Goodall, who initially believed the same, discovered another reality during her 55 years of research. Goodall found that the chimpanzees are not so different from us. Aside from their ability to use tools and pass knowledge from one generation to another, it was found out that they were also capable of forming complex “political” alliances and personal unions. It was also discovered that chimpanzees were not strictly vegetarian; they organized hunting parties and hunted Colobus Monkeys. They later distributed the meat within their community according to individual accomplishments.

The Gombe Chimpanzee ᴡᴀʀ was a ᴠɪᴏʟᴇɴᴛ ᴄᴏɴғʟɪᴄᴛ between two communities of chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania lasting from 1974 to 1978. The two groups were once unified in the Kasakela community. By 1974, researcher Jane Goodall noticed the community splintering. Over a span of eight months, a large party of chimpanzees separated themselves into the southern area of Kasakela and were renamed the Kahama community. The separatists consisted of six adult males, three adult females and their young. The Kasakela was left with eight adult males, twelve adult females and their young. During the four-year ᴄᴏɴғʟɪᴄᴛ, all males of the Kahama community were ᴋɪʟʟᴇᴅ, effectively disbanding the community. The victorious Kasakela then expanded into further territory but were later repelled by another community of chimpanzees.

First blood was drawn by the Kasakela community on January 7, 1974, when a party of six adult Kasakela males consisting of Humphrey, Figan, Jomeo, Sherry, Evered, and Rodolf ambushed the isolated Kahama male Godi while he was feeding on a tree. This was the first time that any of the chimpanzees had been seen to deliberately ᴋɪʟʟ a fellow male chimp. After they had sʟᴀɪɴ Godi, the victorious chimps celebrated boisterously, throwing and dragging branches with hoots and screams.

After Godi fell, De was taken out next, and then Hugh. Later on came the elderly Goliath. Throughout the ᴡᴀʀ, Goliath had been relatively friendly with the Kasakela neighbors when encounters occurred. However, his kindness was not reciprocated and he was ᴋɪʟʟᴇᴅ. Only three Kahama males remained: Charlie, Sniff, and Willy Wally, who was ᴄʀɪᴘᴘʟᴇᴅ from ᴘᴏʟɪᴏ. Without a chance to strike back, Charlie was ᴋɪʟʟᴇᴅ next. After his ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ, Willy Wally disappeared and was never found. The last remaining Kahama male, the young Sniff, survived for over a year. For some time it seemed as if he may escape into a new community or be welcomed back to the Kasakelas, but there was no such luck. Sniff, too, fell to the Kasakela ᴡᴀʀ band. Of the females from Kahama, one was ᴋɪʟʟᴇᴅ, two went missing, and three were ʙᴇᴀᴛᴇɴ and ᴋɪᴅɴᴀᴘᴘᴇᴅ by the Kasakela males. The Kasakela then succeeded in taking over the Kahama’s former territory.

These territorial gains were not permanent, however. With the Kahama gone, the Kasakela territory now butted up directly against the territory of another chimpanzee community, called the Kalande. Cowed by the superior strength and numbers of the Kalande, as well as a few ᴠɪᴏʟᴇɴᴛ sᴋɪʀᴍɪsʜᴇs along their border, the Kasakela quickly gave up much of their new territory. Furthermore, when they moved back northᴡᴀʀd, the Kasakela were ʜᴀʀᴀssᴇᴅ by Mitumba foragers, who also outnumbered the Kasakela community. Eventually ʜᴏsᴛɪʟɪᴛɪᴇs ᴅɪᴇᴅ down and the regular order of things was restored.

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