Chimpanzees in Culture
For obvious reasons, chimpanzees are one of the most beloved animals in popular culture. These primates are among the most represented and have earned the sympathy of the people in general.
The Bulu tribe in present-day Cameroon have a story about the creation of the world that includes chimpanzees, as they inhabit their territory. According to the story, the god Membe’e sent his son Zambe to the Earth to create a man, a chimpanzee, a gorilla, and an elephant. Zambe created a white man and a black man, besides the mentioned animals, and gave them water, tools, fire and a book.
Once on Earth, the creatures gathered around the fire to keep it alive, but after a while, the chimpanzee left the place and went to the trees to eat fruit. The white man took the book and left; the elephant went to the surroundings without thinking about many things, the black man stayed taking care of the fire, and the gorilla soon followed the chimpanzee. When Membe’e asked them how they had used their gifts, he made these resolutions. The chimpanzee and the gorilla were condemned to live in the woods, eat fruit and have hairy bodies. He expelled the elephant from the place. The white man was sentenced to read and know many things, but relying on the black men for their survival. In contrast, the black man was assigned to work for the white man because of his lack of interest in books but his extensive knowledge about survival methods.
Chimpanzees are not monkeys since they lack the tail that the Old and New World monkeys have among so many other things.
This story can be controversial today as it has a point of racism and discrimination, which we do not agree or endorse. However, it is an example of how native peoples explain the conception of the world through the creatures they know. Another story of Cameroonian Africa tells how the mother of a hero named Jeki had a daughter who was stolen by a spirit, although other times it is said that it was a chimpanzee.
Undoubtedly, one of the most common claims in many regions of the world is that humans descend from monkeys or chimpanzees, but they are not ancestors of humans even though they share up to 98% of the genetic code. However, they had a common ancestor several millions of years ago and then followed different evolutive paths.
Another general incorrect fact is that chimpanzees are sometimes wrongly considered monkeys. The fact is that chimpanzees are not monkeys since they lack the tail that Old world and New World monkeys have among so many other things that differentiate them.
In modern times, a large number of chimpanzees have participated in human activities. For example, in Africa and other parts of the world, some have them as pets, although this is dangerous for both the animal and the owner, as chimpanzees can become aggressive over time and people is not prepared to take care of them.
Chimpanzees have been trained to perform in shows and television programs, film and theater. They often portray funny animals and perform human actions. In the 1970s, a US television series called Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp included several chimpanzees, led by a chimpanzee “actor” named Tongo. In another American show, “The Chimp Channel,” the protagonists were disguised chimpanzees who voiced and parodied other entertainment programs and personalities.
David Greybeard is the name of the first chimpanzee that was observed using a tool.
But perhaps the best-known chimpanzee of the screens is Cheeta, the friend of Tarzan that appeared in the films of the famous story. Several male and female chimpanzees played the character. And what about Darwin? He is the best known to audiences of the late 1990s and mid-2000s, after appearing on the animated program “The Thornberrys.” Darwin travels with the Thornberry family across Africa and the character of Eliza, his friend, can talk to him. Another example of chimpanzees in cartoons? Chim Chim, the mascot of Speed Racer, the main character of the series.
Not all were fictitious celebrities. Bubbles, for example, was the beloved pet of the king of pop, Michael Jackson. He loved him so much that he took him to his ranch Neverland and surrounded him with comforts and privileges. Even the press criticized the singer of eccentric. “Bubbles” was taken to a sanctuary when it grew and became more aggressive.
On the other hand, the chimpanzees of Gombe National Park are well known by scientists. When Jane Goodall arrived to study them, she assigned them a name and tried to interact with them like no one else had. David Greybeard was the first to be observed using a tool, followed by Goliath. In recent years, Frodo impressed by its dominance and its aggressiveness.
Chimpanzees are very present in our culture. Everybody can remember at least one in the universe of famous chimpanzees. Their appearances are much more than those mentioned above, but this journey gave us a clear perspective about their popularity among humans.
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