Scientific research on chimpanzees
Thousands of chimpanzees have been studied both in their natural habitat and in captivity. Due to their similarity to humans, they arouse interest and curiosity, which has led to being a major part of many scientific studies.
We cannot speak about chimpanzee research without mentioning Jane Goodall; the famous primatologist focused primarily on the study, protection, and conservation of chimpanzees. It is a mandatory reference for anyone interested in these animals.
In the 1960s, information about chimpanzees experienced a revolution when scientists discovered that they are more intelligent and skilled than previously thought. Thanks to Goodall’s observations and findings in wild chimpanzees in Africa, scientists knew that such animals could make and use tools, something that was believed to be a practice exclusive of the Homo sapiens.
Jane Goodall is a famous primatologist focused on the study, protection, and conservation of chimpanzees since the 1960’s.
Goodall, instead of assigning numbers, gave them names and dedicated to understanding them as beings. Among her notable contributions, she and her colleagues discovered that they have a complex social structure, that they have an individuality within their social group and that, although mainly herbivores, they can hunt and show aggressiveness to each other.
The important thing is that Goodall traced the way through which many more studies followed. Thanks to later research, we know that they share with humans approximately 98 percent of the DNA. This kind of information is the product of these years of scientific research. The knowledge that is continuously modified as new discoveries arise.
Nim Chimpsky was a chimpanzee who learned more than 100 signs of the language.
The topics of study have been diverse over the last decades, but those focused on the communication with and between chimpanzees and the attempts to teach them a human language are the most fascinating. Washoe, a female common chimpanzee, was the first to learn the American sign language and then she showed part of it to her adopted son Louis. At first, they tried to teach them an oral language, which did not work since chimpanzees do not have the necessary parts of the body to emit sounds different than grunts, shouts or calls among them.
Washoe was a chimpanzee raised as a human child, just like Nim Chimpsky, another chimpanzee who learned more than 100 symbols of the signed language. The case of Nim was unfortunate because it died at the early age of 26 years when the chimpanzees can live much more. However, many other chimpanzees and primates have been trained to communicate with humans. The bonobos Kanzi and Panbanisha learned to interpret symbols and signs, which demonstrates an aptitude for understanding abstract concepts and associate with physical objects. With the help of a screen and keyboard with symbols, bonobos learned to point out objects selecting its corresponding symbol to get some rewards as food. They also recognized the sounds of some objects.
Chimpanzees in laboratories
Not all studies have received general approval, as some are cruel or abusive. Chimpanzees are the animals most genetically similar to men, so various aspects of their body interest scientists to understand humans and as models for the development of vaccines against HIV and hepatitis among others.
United States is the country that uses more chimpanzees for biomedical research.
The United States is the country that uses more chimpanzees for biomedical research. Although it looks like an advanced medical practice, conservationists and activists around the world have raised their voices against the use of chimpanzees and other animals, that are kept in captivity and deprived of their fundamental requirements; Socialization, food, reproduction, and so on. Sometimes, chimpanzees used in biomedical research may come from illegal sources.
It happens in certain cases that laboratories keep chimpanzees used in research for several years. By November 2007, 1,300 chimpanzees lived in 10 laboratories around the United States, and most were the subject of experiments that could have affected their health.
Defenders of using chimpanzees in the biomedical research say that this practice has helped to develop treatments for the cure of human diseases. However, opponents say that they abuse animals and that there are alternatives to investigate. The truth is that almost every country in the world has banned the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research, except the United States and Gabon.
It is now widely accepted that chimpanzees are intelligent animals with a degree of sensitivity. They suffer from pain, anxiety and other diverse emotions. The studies have provided a vast amount of useful information, but the human has the challenge of doing research without harming their life.
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