De Waal and Kummer Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1535 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Animals

De Waal and Kummer

What do Kummer and de Waal describe as the major ecological (environmental and social) conditions altered by captivity?

Observing primates in zoos proved to have significant limitations. Kummer notes that zoos' practices of keeping only one mature adult male helped avoid serious fights, but that the lone male paid a price - boredom. Artificially restricting the make-up of groups meant that zoo-based groups did not have the same populations that wild troupes would have. DeWaal also noted that the amount of space allotted to a group affected how they interacted. He found that the artificial nature of zoos could have unexpected consequences. Chimpanzees in the wild feed by foraging, which separates groups and prevents fights over food. The artificial way zoos tended to feed their primates encouraged fights over food.

De Waal reports that at the Arnhem zoo, the zookeepers solved the problem of fighting over food by separating the group during feeding as well as by not allowing the public to feed the chimpanzees. However, this is an artificial and forced solution to a natural problem. It might be concluded from these incidents that cause friction in zoos might be mediated by providing larger space for the animals to inhabit. However, it might be reasonable to assume that even the largest space would artificial, and hence change the behavior of captive primates in some way when compared to primates in the wild.

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Describe the ethograms Kummer and de Waal develop for their captive subjects. Do the authors find the behavior of their captive subjects similar or different from wild counterparts of that species? In what ways, if any, were the captive subjects different and why?

Term Paper on De Waal and Kummer What Do Kummer Assignment

One of the biggest struggles for both researchers as they studied captive primates was in finding accurate ways to describe the behavior they saw. A variety of issues related to captivity affected the primates' behaviors. De Waal's chimpanzees would have spent a large portion of their time hunting for food in the wild. Since they fed more efficiently at the zoo, they had extra time on their hands for socialization. This fact meant that socialization for these chimpanzees was by definition not the same as it would have been in the wild. Since space was restricted, individuals could not ever completely separate themselves from others. These circumstances were exaggerated in the winter when it was too cold for the chimps to be in the larger outdoor area and had to be kept in more cramped indoor space.

Kummer's group was even more restricted in size, so the conclusions he drew about baboon behavior had to be mitigated by the fact that the size of the group was constricted to what could be accommodated in the zoo's available space for the animals. Both researchers, however, drew conclusions by looking at the antecedent events to any behaviors they observed. They worked hard to avoid anthropomorphizing the animals' motivations for their actions.

Describe how the authors felt about interpreting the behaviors they observed. What conclusions do they draw about primate social interactions and intelligence?

Both authors were careful not to attribute human motivations to primate behavior. However, Kummer in particular encountered significant difficulties while trying to interpret what he was observing. For instance, he tried counting interactions between individuals, but ultimately found that the number of interactions could be misleading. In addition, with careful observation he realized that for the baboons, many interactions actually involved three individuals, not two. These interactions often involved each baboon establishing his or her position within the interaction. While the group had a clear leader, within these triads, overall social position in the troupe did not always explain how these incidents would play out.

While De Waal had a verified report of at least one chimpanzee using a branch as a ladder to climb out of the enclosure, Kummer notes that much of the baboons' social behavior seems to be genetically driven. Facial and even hand gestures appear genetic, and although he could not always predict how an interaction, especially in a triad, would unfold, the behaviors used by the animals, including body language and facial expressions (ex: raised eyebrows) were genetic in nature. He is careful not to interpret what he sees in terms of how much intelligence the animals are displaying.

De Waal approaches the issue of intelligence somewhat differently. It seems likely from reading the two accounts that chimpanzees may be more intelligent than baboons. De Waal reports that the chimpanzees in the Arnhem zoo realize that they are stronger than their zookeepers, while he reports that chimpanzees in the wild are not aware of their superior strength. The use of a makeshift ladder indicates use of tools, a true indicator of intelligence. De Waal notes that chimpanzees and humans evolved from a common ancestor and that humans and chimps share 98.5% of the same genes, so perhaps it is more appropriate to consider human behavior when observing chimpanzees. At the same time, he reports that casual visitors to the zoo often misinterpret the chimps' behavior, applying human understanding to animal behavior. Kummer also wrote in some detail about the necessity to set aside assumptions based on human behavior when observing animals. Kummer and De Waal have advantages over the occasional zoo visitor because they could form hypotheses about what behavior really meant, and then use those hypotheses to predict future behavior. Both authors used this approach, which allowed them to notice shifts in power within the primate groups they studied.

All of this forces a consideration of what it means to be "wild." In earlier times, calling something "wild" was a somewhat perjorative term. People were lured into viewing animals in captivity more kindly. Audiences saw first trained big cats and elephants, and then trained marine animals. Many people felt a bond with these creatures. Perhaps part of that was because people could do the easy thinking that leads to anthropromorphism, or imagining human attributes that don't exist in another animal. People saw trained seals "playing melodies" by honking horns in a certain order. However, that action did not hold the same meaning for the seals that it did for the audience. De Waal and Kummer both note that beyond such obvious application of human traits to wild animals, scientists still filter what they see through their own biases, experiences and beliefs, and that even the most cautious and systematic observers cannot assume they have accounted for all their possible misperceptions based on their cultures and experiences.

This problem of observing through a filter is exaggerated when scientists study animals in captivity. For these scientists, wild does not mean "untrained." It means that wild animals live within their own habitats and ecology without interference from human beings. In a zoo, the interference of human beings is markedly high. When observing animals in their natural habitat, humans must be careful not to disrupt natural animal actions and interactions. The difficulties in observing primates in a non-disruptive way in the wild was illustrated by De Waal while Jane Goodall was studying chimpanzees in Africa. Sometimes the chimps would grab a human and drag them down hill. One time one of them grabbed Goodall and almost broke her neck. The scientists did not interfere because they had to maintain their position of trust with the troupe. However, in a completely wild setting, humans would not be sitting among chimpanzees and these incidents never would have occurred.

The difficulty of studying captured animals is that zoos cannot completely reproduce wild conditions. Even if they could provide the amount of space such animals truly need, and even if they could introduce all the other factors of their natural environment, zoos would probably not tolerate the true realities of life in the wild. According to Kummer, chimpanzees sometimes practice cannibalism.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "De Waal and Kummer" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

De Waal and Kummer.  (2006, September 11).  Retrieved March 1, 2021, from

MLA Format

"De Waal and Kummer."  11 September 2006.  Web.  1 March 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"De Waal and Kummer."  September 11, 2006.  Accessed March 1, 2021.