Craig Stanford

 

On his book The New Chimpanzee: A Twenty-First-Century Portrait of Our Closest Kin

Cover Interview of June 10, 2018

In a nutshell

This book is about the lives of chimpanzees living in the tropical forests of Africa. Over the past two decades, scientists have made dramatic discoveries about chimpanzees that will change the way we understand both human nature and the apes themselves. Although there is a rich history of chimpanzee field research that goes back nearly sixty years, almost all of the findings discussed in The New Chimpanzee have been made just since the turn of the millennium. From genomics to cultural traditions, I consider our close kin in a new light and ask what this new information may mean for a new and improved understanding of human nature.

Studying wild chimpanzees is the profession of a very small number of people in the world. At any one time there are probably fewer than a hundred scientists and their students actively engaged in chimpanzee field observation and study. The number of full-time professors in American universities whose careers are focused mainly on wild chimpanzee research is perhaps a dozen. Add in the scholars and conservationists doing work in related areas, and the global army of chimpanzee-watchers is a few hundred strong. The available funding for the work they do is a miniscule fraction of that given to scientists in other scientific endeavors. Yet the results of new studies are front-page news and are rightly touted in the international media for the clues they provide about human nature.