Although often misunderstood, the scientific rationale for rearing a chimpanzee in a human household is to find out just how far the ape can go in absorbing the civilizing influences of the environment. To what degree is it capable of responding like a child and to what degree  will genetic factors limit its development?

At least six comprehensive studies by qualified investigators have been directed wholly or partly to this problem. All of these studies employed young chimpanzees as subjects and some also had in-house child controls whose day-to-day development could be compared directly with that of the experimental  animal.

In general, the results of this sort of research show that the home-raised chimp adapts rapidly to the physical features of the household. It does many things as well as a human child and some of them better (for example, those involving strength and climbing).

By far the greatest deficiency shown by the ape in the human  environment is its lack of language ability. This eliminates the verbal communication which humans enjoy, and with it the vast amount of social intercourse and learning which are dependent upon language. Even amid human surroundings, a chimp never prattles or babbles as a young child does when beginning to talk.

Although it imitates the behavior of others readily, it seems to lack the ability for vocal imitation. The neural speech centers of the brain are no doubt deficient in this respect and it is possible also that the larynx and speech organs are incapable of producing the complex sound patterns of human language.

One long-time attempt to teach a home-raised chimp to  pronounce human words succeeded only in getting the animal to mouth unvoiced whispers of the words ‘mama’, ‘papa’, ‘cup’, and ‘up’.

At the same time, a chimpanzee in the home, as in the wild state, uses gestures or movements as communicating signals. This suggests the possibility of training a home-raised ape to employ a standardized  system of gestures as a means of two-way communication. Such an investigation is now under way, using a gesture language devised for the deaf. Considerable progress has already been made in both the receiving and sending of gesture signals by this method.

The technique seems to offer a much greater likelihood of success than other methods  of intercommunication between chimpanzees and humans.


6 Facts About Chimps You Probably Don’t Know

1. Chimps Can Be Cold-Blooded Killers

Packs of male chimps sometimes carry out “brutal raids” on other groups of chimps, for the purpose of expanding their territory (which means they get more land, extra food, and also increased access to females). When carrying out such raids, the chimps are said to move purposefully and “with stealth.”

2. Male Chimps Have Spines on Their Penises

The purpose is most likely to increase stimulation during mating… and human males apparently had similar spines at one point, too.

3. Chimps Are Innovative

Chimps not only create tools, but different chimps will come up with different ways to accomplish goals, depending on what resources are available. For example, three groups of chimpanzees used eight different innovative methods of opening hard-shelled monkey oranges:

4. Chimps Laugh

Many animals laugh, including chimps, rats, and puppies. If you tickle a chimp, he may very well laugh (not that I recommend doing so!), and he’ll likely laugh at other situations that would also draw laughter from humans. According to Discovery News:4

Their laughter comes in the same sorts of situations as humans, sounds like a human and they laugh more than we do, since they can do it while inhaling AND exhaling.”

5. Chimps Help Others

Chimps will share tools with other chimps or physically assist them on projects. And, once they’ve helped out a pal one time, they’re known to continue doing so about 97 percent of the time.

6. Chimps Grieve

Chimps face death and dying in much the same way as humans, holding vigil over chimps who are dying (including both touching and grooming them) and grieving once they are gone.

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