Chimpanzees and Humans
Less than 10 million years ago, humans and chimpanzees shared a common ancestor; this is the first link that binds both species, and that makes them genetically similar. From this point of view, chimpanzees are distant relatives of all members of the genus Homo.
Native to Africa, chimpanzees have met many times with people. There have been all kinds of consequences from these encounters, some satisfactory, but others unpleasant for them.
In the African continent, the native people have some stories that include chimpanzees, which show the knowledge that they have of these apes. Some time ago, some naturalists mentioned similarities with people, but during the 19th-century the information about their anatomical characteristics, their nutrition, their reproduction, and other related issues was limited.
It is not easy that wild chimpanzees interact with humans, they can become aggressive if they feel threatened.
It was during the second half of the twentieth century that chimpanzees were the object of many types of research, and became the protagonists of television series, cartoons, and films. Their popularity increased among people, as well as the evidence of their superior intelligence compared to other animals, their ability to use objects as tools, and their sensitivity to feel emotions.
It is not easy that wild chimpanzees interact with people, they, especially common chimpanzees, can become aggressive if they feel threatened, and of course, it is feasible that they attack that person. They are about five times stronger than us and have sharp teeth and powerful muscles. Then, how investigators like Jane Goodall managed to stay very close to them without suffering fatal attacks?
Both parties have to get used to the others. It is a slow and gradual process, but with favorable results. The wild chimpanzees of Gombe, Africa, took several months to get used to Goodall, but eventually, they lost the fear and let her get close to them.
There are cases of chimpanzees raised in traditional homes as if they were one of the family. Bubbles, a male chimpanzee, was grown by singer Michael Jackson, who took great care of him to the point of being labeled as eccentric.
Human-chimpanzee interaction can have negative consequences if carried out irresponsibly. Some people keep these apes as pets but, when they grow stronger and more aggressive, they are condemned to spend the rest of their lives elsewhere. Others are hunted to trade their meat, some lose their natural habitat due to deforestation, and several are victims of infectious diseases.
In 1999, investigators found that the virus that causes AIDS in people started in wild chimpanzees of Africa.
Since their genetic code is similar, people are prone to transmit diseases to chimpanzees, and these to people. Ebola and immunodeficiency viruses are clear examples of this since individuals of the genus Pan and Homo have contracted them. In 1999, scientists discovered that the virus that causes AIDS in people originated in the wild chimpanzees of Africa.
The responsibility of humans
Chimpanzees should live free and peaceful in their habitat, without the dangers that loggers and poachers continuously represent. Unfortunately, this has not happened for a long time.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The more helpless the creature, the more it is entitled to protection by man from the cruelty of man.” It is a phrase that recalls the responsibility that people have with chimpanzees and other animals, which may be victims of human activities.
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