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Empathetic chimps comfort each other like humans, study says

Delila James | Science Recorder | October 19, 2013

Empathetic chimps comfort each other like humans, study says

A new study examines how chimps interact with one another.

Scientists studying bonobo chimpanzees at a sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo have found that apes raised with their mothers tend to cuddle and comfort others who are in distress, but that orphaned chimps show markedly less empathy toward others. Along with the common chimpanzee, bonobos are human beings’ closest living relative.

Professor Frans de Waal of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and his colleague, lead researcher Dr Zanna Clay, found that orphaned bonobos are not only less likely to comfort their fellow apes than non-orphans, but also had more difficulty managing their own emotions. After a fight, for example, orphans would get “very upset” and scream for minutes, while chimps who were reared by their mothers were more resilient, snapping out of an emotional outburst in just seconds.

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