Animals | Self | Conservation

The First Chimp “War” And Why They Make Horrible Pets

You can learn a lot about yourself by looking to nature, and up into the trees.

Sean Kernan
5 min readMay 22


Rights via Pexels Images (Francesco Ungaro)

In 1932, a psychologist adopted a young chimpanzee — and raised it alongside her baby boy. His goal was to see if it could grow to behave and think like a human.

Eventually, the chimp hit a cognitive wall. There was no amount of training or encouragement that could get it past that wall. In the years since, so many incredible chimp experiments have revealed insights into human nature.

There’s been much chimp buzz recently after the release of Netflix’s docuseries, Chimp Empire.

The show’s story of intergroup warfare has its roots in a groundbreaking study by Jane Goodall — and it has shocking parallels to our own nature. It also reminds us of why they make for a terrible pet.

War of the Apes

It was long believed that humans are the only mammals that engage in war — at least in the way that we do, with all its maladies intact.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that this notion was challenged by our closest relatives, chimpanzees. In fact, many scientists argue that chimps are on a similar evolutionary track, living as we did in the Stone Age. They already demonstrate a preference for, and understanding of, cooked food. They just lack the ability to create fire.

There are even reports of chimps using spears to hunt in Senegal.

But it was an initial report of an actual chimp war that rocked the anthropological world. Jane Goodall was there as a witness. Her perception of benevolent, vegetarian primates was totally upended and it left her heartbroken.

The Origins of the Gombe Chimp War

In the 1970s, Jane Goodall spent years embedded with a chimp community in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania.

Via Wikimedia Commons (Bernard Dupont — Open Use)



Sean Kernan

Always on the hunt for a good story. That guy from Quora. Writing out of Tampa, Florida.