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Gombe Chimpanzee War (wikipedia.org)
138 points by niklasbuschmann on Sept 9, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 37 comments

Along the same lines (but with a different species) the story of the Mapoogo lion coalition is fascinating


It has been made into a fascinating documentary:

Brothers in Blood: The Lions of Sabi Sand


(you can also find the video online for free if you search for it)

Yes, lots of great clips about lion behavior from BBC and NatGeo on youtube, as well as (mostly nonviolent) scenes captured by safari leaders like Rob the Ranger.

Lions are incredibly savage toward "the other"; no intra-species solidarity seems to exist, though there are incidents of strangers forming coalitions even though they didn't grow up together.

Chimps increasingly are being reported to be somewhat violent and are known to commit murder; cannibalism and rape also are not uncommon.

It's not clear, whether this behavior is continuous throughout their history as a species, or has come to be more common because of the pressure of human encroachment and the reduction in their population. At one time there were millions of chimpanzees in Africa, and today there are maybe 300,000 left in the wild.

Chimp and humans have similar levels of outgroup violence, but human ingroup violence is much lower. In wild chimpanzee groups violence or threats of violence are daily occurrence Young chimp males start to beat weakest females daily when they grow enough.

In developing countries especially, many parents beat their children daily. Many husbands beat their wives daily. Many teachers beat their students daily. In traffic, motorists and touts engage in fights daily. Governments routinely have their citizens arrested, tortured, and killed. Armed criminals rob, rape and murder people daily. Most babies have their private parts mutilated.

All or most of the above would be classified as in-group violence by an objective observer, so it is difficult to agree with you that our ingroup violence as a species is much lower.

Unless you have some source, I think the "developing countries especially" affirmation is unfounded. This happens too frequently in all countries, developed or not.

If you are right, that makes my point even stronger, doesn't it?

Do you think I am being downvoted for saying we have a lot of ingroup violence or for suggesting there is more ingroup violence in developing countries? These seem to be uncontroversial points.

I live in Nigeria. Children get beaten here. From their media, I know it's the same in other African countries, India, etc. Everyone accepts it and we are proud of it. But I know that in some developed countries you can be reported to child services for such. So I was careful not to imply that it's the same everywhere.

Child protection services are a deterrent, yes, but not as strong as one would think. Children usually just endure violence because they think it's normal, or they know child protection services will break their family apart. Abusive parents typically are denounced by other adults, like doctors or teachers.

Still, according to page 172 of this report, it seems you're right, because UNICEF puts more effort at developing countries, although their scope covers much more than just domestic violence: https://www.unicef.org/publications/index_74865.html

Men who beat their wife daily are not majority in any culture.

You can walk into a village or bar full of strangers and you don't automatically get into a fights. You don't have to maintain your position with constant violence.

I doubt there is human culture where average adult gets into violent confrontation for status monthly.

A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology concluded that the Gombe War was most likely a consequence of a power struggle between three high-ranking males, which was exacerbated by an unusual scarcity of fertile females.

Ref: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ajpa.23462

I went to a talk by Lawrence Freedman [1] in Oxford where he discussed this war. He has a chapter dedicated to it in his book 'Strategy: A History' [2] (which I highly recommend).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Freedman [2] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Strategy-History-Sir-Lawrence-Freed...

Considering that Chimps have reached stone age, it will be interesting to see if Chimps use any weaponns if such a war happens again.


They're smashing heavy rocks against nuts... Surely there's a huge difference between carving a weapon and finding a rock large enough to smash open a nut.

Well, to be fair, our Stone Age did take 3 million years to complete.

Apparently they make pointy sticks to hunt with https://phys.org/news/2015-04-chimps-senegal-fashion-spears....

Maybe you missed this line: old Rodolf, usually so benign, standing upright to hurl a four-pound rock at Godi's prostrate body

This is simultaneously really cool and really sad.

There's a documentary or two of this kicking around on Youtube and elsewhere. Much better than this wiki article.

I would hardly describe a conflict involving a total of 14 adult male chimps a "war".

I think you're thinking too much about numbers. Outside of its legal definition, an ongoing conflict between two groups can be considered a war. I think its rather about duration (as opposed to one instance of fighting, which would just be a battle or conflict) rather than how many are involved.

Then you don't understand chimp culture. Chimps do seriously "go to war" against other tribes. You have to remember that humans killing humans for the sake of "I just don't like you or your friends" is not the norm in the animal kingdom. So yes, it really is a "chimp war", despite their relatively small numbers.

I'm pretty sure they're objecting specifically to the "relatively small numbers" part; I probably wouldn't call a conflict involving only 14 humans a "war" either, culture or no culture.

That's just the size of a chimp "nation", this is like arguing Luxembourg can never go to war because "It has a current strength of approximately 450 professional soldiers" which is obviously far too few for any real scotsmans war.

Maybe a "feud" a la the Hatfield & McCoy?

Anthropologists do sometimes use the terms "feuds", "blood feuds", or "raiding" for this type of conflict in small groups of humans.

Why? The mean for Dunbar's number in chimpanzees would be around 60.

My first thought was about Dunbar's number too, but Dunbar's number for people is something like 100-120... yet we're still able to field 10,000-man strong divisions, expeditionary forces, etc.

Chains of Command follow the Hub and Spoke model. I'm pretty sure if you break it down the number of people an individual in that structure has to care about is somewhere between 30 & 60...leaving them room for friends and family.

After reading many, many stories about the absolute horrors of the natural world, I have such a difficult time understanding a belief in a benevolent god. After all, it is trivially easy to imagine a universe with less suffering (but perhaps still enough hardship to drive inquisitive and motivational behaviors), so the presence of so much unnecessary horror in nature leads me to believe either (a) God is a sadist or (b) natural selection in the face of scare resources is what causes this pain.

One of my favorite (or, rather, terror-inducing) examples is the parasitic emerald wasp, which uses its paralyzing sting to turn a cockroach into a "zombie" so it can drag it by its antenna into a burrow, then lay eggs on the roach, and when the larvae hatch they proceed to eat the roach, but in a specific order so that the organs necessary for survival are eaten last. Queen Cersei from Game of Thrones couldn't come up with more nightmare-inducing torture.

If the worst form of suffering you had ever encountered was a splinter on your foot, you would make the same claims. "After reading many, many stories about the absolute horrors of splinters, I have such a difficult time understanding a belief in a benevolent god..."

The suffering in the natural world seems terrible to us, but it could be nothing in the face of larger, unknown forms of suffering. We are limited by our imaginations, having no reason to believe we have access to anything approaching deep universal truths of suffering or divinity.

I say this as an atheist. Your argument struck me as a poor one.

> We are limited by our imaginations

"we"? You don't speak for me.

You sound to me like you've had a decent life and it's you that can't imagine (consider yourself lucky). Not everyone has your fortune.

Your argument struck me as a poor one too.

or a more obvious conclusion - god/gods just doesn’t exists

Benevolent god/gods just doesn't exist.

Maybe if we’re really nice to our metal overlords they will build one for us.

The question that is unanswered is whether or not the chimpanzees were mimicking human behavior. Or if their violent tendencies are genetic in nature.

Or are humans mimicking chimpanzee behavior?

In actuality, this and many other behaviors we share with chimps were most likely present in our last common ancestor. Tool use and complex social hierarchies are other shared behaviors. The split was some 7 million years ago, if memory serves.

This is tangentially addressed in the wiki article:

When Goodall reported on the events of the Gombe War, her account of a naturally occurring war between chimpanzees was not universally believed. At the time, scientific models of human and animal behavior virtually never overlapped.[9] Some scientists accused her of excessive anthropomorphism;[9] others suggested that her presence, and her practice of feeding the chimpanzees, had created violent conflict in a naturally peaceful society.[10] However, later research using less intrusive methods confirmed that chimpanzee societies, in their natural state, wage war.[10][11] A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology concluded that the Gombe War was most likely a consequence of a power struggle between three high-ranking males, which was exacerbated by an unusual scarcity of fertile females.[12]

Bullshit. These chimps have never seen humans killing each other.

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