This extraordinary account of schmoozing, scheming, and consensus building among the chimpanzees of a large zoo colony in Arnhem, The Netherlands, attracted attention. Throughout this revised edition - which features a new gallery of color photographs along with a new introduction and epilogue - de Waal expands and updates his story of the Arnhem ...
This extraordinary account of schmoozing, scheming, and consensus building among the chimpanzees of a large zoo colony in Arnhem, The Netherlands, attracted attention. Throughout this revised edition - which features a new gallery of color photographs along with a new introduction and epilogue - de Waal expands and updates his story of the Arnhem colony and its continuing political upheavals. We learn the fate of many memorable characters and meet the colony's current leaders and their allies. The new edition remains a detailed and thoroughly engrossing account - of sexual rivalries and coalitions, of actions governed by intelligence rather than instinct - and it reaffirms the complex bond between humans and their closest living relatives. As we watch the chimpanzees of Arnhem behave in ways we recognize from Machiavelli (and from the nightly news), de Waal reminds us again that the roots of politics are older than humanity.
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The book was recommended by a friend, former professor of political science at the University of Maryland who used it in his Intro. to Politics class. I read it during the recent debates over the debt crisis and the parallels were amazing. While one third of the country denies human kinship with the great apes, despite overwhelming DNA evidence affirming our kinship, there are engaging similarities in political maneuvering between chimps and humans.
De Waal's book focuses on a large colony of chimpanzees kept in the Arnhem Zoo in the Netherlands in the late 1970s. Over the course of five years he observes a cycle of alliance building among dominant male chimps. These alliances are continually challenged and are not merely based on brute force exercised by one dominant male over time. They are fluid and supported or rejected by senior females in the group or an influential male ally. After a few months of stability, the deck is reshuffled. The world of chimps in zoo colonies and in the wild can be characterized by theatrical performances, tantrums, bluffing, and violence. That said, there are longer periods of greeting and mutual grooming. Chimps acknowledge their roles in their society; they "make up" after disputes; solicit favor; and conspire for sex, food and political power. Sounds familiar, does it not. I'd like to see a revision of the book bring it more up-to-date. It's a very good read and entertaining as well.
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