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10 Facts About Chimpanzees That Hold A Dark Mirror To Humanity

by Mark Oliver
fact checked by Jamie Frater

There’s a part of ourselves that we can see in chimpanzees. They are our closest living ancestors, creatures who share 99 percent of our DNA and behave more like human beings than any other species on Earth.

They are a glimpse into the basest part of our nature. They are a living embodiment of the human id, of the dark, animalistic thing that drives us deep inside. They are a terrifying insight into humanity, unrestrained.

10 There Are Chimpanzee Serial Killers


In 1975, Jane Goodall witnessed the birth of the first chimpanzee serial killer. Her name was Passion, and she didn’t kill alone. She passed it on to the next generation, teaching her children to terrorize, kill, and cannibalize.

Passion’s first observed victim was a chimp named Gilka. She was a new mother, sitting with her infant child, when Passion came charging out of a bush. Passion jumped Gilka and attacked her, beating her until she fled. Then Passion grabbed Gilka’s newborn baby, killed it, ate its flesh, and shared it with her children.

Her children got a taste for chimpanzee flesh. When Gilka gave birth again a year later, Passion’s daughter, Pom, attacked Gilka, chasing her away so that Pom could steal, kill, and cannibalize Gilka’s baby. Then, a month later, Pom attacked again, this time cannibalizing the child of a chimpanzee named Melissa.

Although Goodall had witnessed only three attacks, she soon realized that, over the last two years, only one baby in the whole group had survived through the first month. Passion had been tormenting every mother there.

To keep the chimps alive, Goodall had to have a team follow Passion and her children everywhere they went. Goodall’s team would chase the serial killers away whenever they tried to kill another child. It couldn’t have come too soon. Passion’s youngest, a chimp named Prof, was starting to follow in her footsteps, too.

9 They Get Addicted To Porn And Alcohol


A family once tried to raise a chimpanzee named Lucy as if she were human. They let her sit at the dinner table and dine as a human. But she fell into the same vices that humans do. Soon, Lucy was drinking gin, whiskey, and wine. She spent her time flipping through Playgirl magazine and masturbating with part of a vacuum cleaner.

She’s not the only one. Like us, chimpanzees will drink alcohol and watch porn, and they’ll get addicted to it. One chimp, who was fed alcohol and tobacco for the amusement of Russian tourists, had to be put through rehab to get back on track.

But it’s not just something that happens when humans interfere. Chimpanzees naturally seek out porn and alcohol. A whole group of chimps in Guinea, West Africa, have figured out how to sop up ethanol from palm trees. They regularly get drunk and become aggressive from it.

At Seville Zoo, zookeepers gave a chimpanzee named Gina a TV and a remote control. Not only did she learn how to use these devices, but she also figured out which channels showed porn—and she wouldn’t watch anything else.

8 They Follow Fashion Trends


Photo credit: Smithsonian Magazine

A chimpanzee named Julie was once spotted sticking a piece of grass in her ear. It didn’t serve any purpose. She didn’t eat it, she wasn’t sick, and it didn’t help her do anything. But she kept it there, and every time it fell out, she put it back in.

Apparently, the other chimpanzees thought that having a blade of grass sticking out of your ear was a pretty good look. Shortly after spotting Julie, they started copying her. Soon, the entire group had pieces of grass poking out of their ears.

The researchers found that they could put one of these chimps into another group and get the same effect. As soon as a chimpanzee saw the new look, they’d pick it up. It would become their group identity. As it spread, it became an expectation. Either you wore a piece of grass in your ear, or you were an outsider.

7 They Prostitute Themselves For Food


It’s said that prostitution is the oldest profession—and if chimpanzees are any indication, it might be true. When chimpanzees look for mates, they often pay for it.

Male chimpanzees will hunt, seek, and steal more food than they need so that they can give it out to potential mates. It has a major impact on their sex lives. The more food a chimp gives out, the more mates he gets. In fact, a chimpanzee that is willing to pay for sex will end up getting more female attention than the alpha male.

The best example of animal prostitution, though, comes from another type of monkey—the capuchin. Researchers ran an experiment to see if capuchins could understand currency by giving them tokens that they could trade for food. The capuchins understood and quickly started using the tokens to pay for sex.

Male capuchins were spotted handing the tokens to females, who would let the males have their way with them. Then, as soon as the males were finished, the females would bring the tokens they’d just earned over to the researchers to buy grapes.

6 They Rape And Beat Their Mates


Prostitution is actually better than the alternative. Usually, when a male chimpanzee wants a mate, he doesn’t ask. He gets it through violence.

Male chimps will charge females and beat them senseless for sex. Males will rip out the females’ hair, stomp on the women, and kick them until they’ve lost the will to escape. Then the males brutally rape the females. Worse yet, the males will even kidnap and murder the females’ babies so that the women will want to mate again.

Violence is especially common in low-ranking chimpanzees. Male chimps that are usually turned down rely on beatings and abuse to get sex far more often than the dominant males. When the females let the males have their way, though, it doesn’t do the females any favors. If they get caught with a weak male, the high-ranking men will beat the women for their shame.

No one is totally safe. Though chimpanzees avoid incest, they may have to run to get away. Male chimps have been seen attacking their own mothers for sex. The mothers will resist them desperately, running and taking brutal beatings from their own children just to keep them away.

5 Baby Chimpanzees Play With Weapons


Photo credit:

Young chimpanzees will play with toys. For girls, that play involves practicing motherhood. They’ve been spotted picking up sticks and cradling them like they’re babies.

The young females act out the motions of motherhood like a little girl with a doll. When they’re given human toys, the same thing happens. The girls will gravitate toward baby dolls, and they’ll pretend that they’re holding their own children.

The males, though, don’t really care for the dolls. Instead, they pick up sticks and use them as weapons. When the young males are given human toys, they’ll either pick fake weapons or things that roll. Then the male chimps practice beating and killing.

It’s something we see in humans, too. But through chimps, some of the truth of our nature is revealed. The chimpanzees are socialized or pressured into gender norms. For them, it’s instinctive. The more testosterone they have, the more they like to play at killing.

4 They Dominate Through Violence


Photo credit: BBC

When a chimpanzee wants to lead his group, he doesn’t negotiate. He gets violent. That’s not uncommon for pack animals, but chimpanzees take it a bit further than most. They can get unbelievably brutal.

One chimp named Frodo took over a group that was being observed by Jane Goodall. She got to see his whole rise to power, from the moment he was born. From the start, he was incredibly aggressive. If he so much as saw someone touch a rock, he would grab a bigger rock and hurl it at them. Frodo let them know that anything they could do, he could do bigger and harder.

In time, Frodo attacked his brother and beat him to gain dominance over the group. Just beating his brother, though, wasn’t enough. Frodo knew there was still another threat: Jane Goodall. To prove that he was above all others, Frodo knocked Goodall to the ground, stomped on her, and dragged her around. Whenever she tried to get up, he would beat her back down.

Then he went further. In the middle of the night, Frodo stole a human baby. He snatched the newborn girl away from her mother, dragged the baby into the jungle, and battered her to death. Then Frodo ate the baby and left her remains hanging from a tree to let the world know: Human or chimpanzee, Frodo feared no one.

3 They Make Weapons And Plan Attacks


Photo credit: Scientific American

Chimpanzees in Senegal have been spotted making crude weapons. They gather up sticks, tear off their branches, and peel away the bark to sharpen one end, forging a crude type of spear. Then they hunt.

The way they use these spears is even more horrifying than you might imagine. They don’t use them to take down bigger animals. Instead, they sneak up on nests of sleeping children and repeatedly thrust the jagged wooden tips into the children. It’s quick and brutal, with one researcher comparing the violence to the shower scene in the movie Psycho. “It was kind of scary,” she said.

It’s not just that chimps use weapons, though. They plan their attacks. That was observed in a chimp named Santino, who lives in a Swedish zoo. He became aggressive after puberty and soon killed the other chimp in his cage.

Santino, now the only chimp left, wanted to show his dominance to the people peering in. He would yell and display feats of strength, hoping to strike terror in their hearts. Some, though, would laugh, and the furious Santino would hurl rocks at them.

When the zookeepers looked into it, they found out that Santino had planned his attacks. When the zoo was closed and no one was watching, he would scavenge rocks and hide them in a secret stockpile that the zookeepers couldn’t see. Then he’d wait for the crowds to come in and be ready to strike with his weapons.

2 They Wage Wars That Last Years


Photo credit: BBC

Few animals will kill their own kind. They might hunt other animals or form packs and hunt together. But only a handful will seek out and kill a member of their own species. Chimpanzees, though, are one of the few species that will not only kill their own, they’ll go to war.

Chimps usually fight over territory. Groups will gather together to march into another group’s land or to chase away invaders. First, they will give the enemy a chance to flee. They will try to intimidate each other by yelling, killing, or beating on the roots of trees like war drums.

Sometimes, it scares the other chimps away. But sometimes, it doesn’t. Then they will erupt into full-on fights, beating and brutalizing one another, leaving their enemies scarred or killing them outright.

The first chimp war ever observed was the Gombe Chimp War, and it went on for at least four years (1974–1978). A group of chimps had split into two, nicknamed the Kahama and the Kasakela. Shortly after, the Kasakela got violent. They would wait until a Kahama chimp was alone and undefended. Then they would jump him and beat him bloody.

Jane Goodall named the leader of the first killing “Satan.” In the aftermath of his killing, she described him as “cupping his hand below Sniff’s chin to drink the blood that welled from a great wound on his face.”

1 They Cannibalize Their Enemies


Photo credit: National Geographic

When the wars are won, the chimps will rip the enemy’s infants out of their mother’s arms, kill them, and eat their remains.

One writer described seeing a pile of chimps fighting over something that he couldn’t see in the aftermath of a battle. When the chaos ended, a one-armed chimp came out on top with the spoils: a dead baby carried in his mouth.

He tore parts of its body off and shared it with the others. The group engaged in ritual cannibalism together. Even the babies came out and begged for a piece of the dead chimp’s flesh.

Nobody knows why they do it, but chimpanzees end their wars by cannibalizing babies. Some think it’s for the protein, but others think it’s a primitive ritual that unites the chimps in a shared massacre.

The urges that push the chimpanzees into these horrific actions seem to exist in humans, too. We have found the cannibalized remains of human beings from as far back as 15,000 years ago. The earliest remains of human warfare go back 7,000 years when 34 people, 16 of whom were children, were chased down and beaten to death as they ran for their lives.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion's StarWipe and His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

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