Ep70 Jan van Hooff on the Royal Burgers Zoo chimpanzee colony, and the trials and tribulations of the social lives of primates

2021 ibuzz podcast Nov 27, 2021

For today’s podcast, we once again welcome back Professor Jan van Hooff to share more of his stories and knowledge surrounding his experiences working with the chimpanzees at Burgers Zoo.

He explains how the large community of chimpanzees he came to work with was unheard of at the time. He draws on his experiences researching the chimpanzees housed in New Mexico by the United States Air Force to encourage and formulate a plan for keeping a colony of chimpanzees in captivity. He explains how, prior to the 1970s, chimpanzees in zoos were traditionally kept alone or in small groups in cages.

Professor van Hooff retells stories of how the colony at Burgers Zoo came to be, and the trials and tribulations of introducing such a large group of chimpanzees to each other. This included the struggle of introducing three adult males to a group of twenty-three adult and adolescent females. He draws particular attention to the oldest female Mama, who Jan explains had adopted the role that would typically be assumed by adult males in chimpanzee colonies.

Jan tells us of his first PhD student, Frans de Waal, and the extensive studies they did together on the Royal Burgers Zoo colony. He shares how they studied coalition behaviours in the chimpanzees and the work that went into Frans de Waal’s book, “Chimpanzee Politics”. He explains how the study of coalition behaviour was very new at the time. He tells us of research that was conducted in crab-eating macaques on top of the work that was done with the Burgers Zoo chimpanzees, and how primate behaviour connects with human behaviour and politics in our day-to-day lives.

We conclude with a story of chimpanzee rivalry and companionship. Jan tells us how two males worked together to succeed the alpha position, and how this behaviour was followed by Jan and Frans – forming the question, why did these two males join together to beat the dominant male? He tells us how the male who joined the coalition wasn’t offered sufficient freedom by the original dominant male, and so he joined with the rival male to achieve more freedom for food and mating rights within the group. He tells us what this research in chimpanzees tells us about power and bargaining in humans and other primates.

Check out Frans de Waal’s book “Chimpanzee Politics” HERE

If you would like to listen to the previous podcasts with Professor Jan van Hooff, click the following links:

First podcast

Second podcast

Third podcast

Learn more about Jan van Hooff HERE

Listen on your favourite player or directly HERE

Become a member of PAWS now HERE


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