A study led by US Scientist Dr Michael Wilson from the University of Minnesota, found that chimps are actually violent by nature, and not violent due to our impacting their habitat.
One of the major factors they found that was indicative of more killings between the chimps was an increase in the density of male population. Essentially, the more “out-of-balance” the population became, the more violent the population became.
Interestingly, the study also finds that males were usually doing the killing, and being killed. The study examined 152 killings by chimpanzees, and what it found was that males were likely to work together to kill. Usually, the odds were at 8:1 odds in terms of fighting matchup.
Doesn’t seem like a fair fight, but it seems to be the trend. Mothers, and children were spared for the most part – although the study did find a few infants were killed.
To put even more emphasis on the point that gender balance within the community, the study found that inter-community attacks account for 66% of the killings.
The link is interesting because chimpanzees are regularly used to determine, or understand violence in humans because we share certain psychological traits with our closest special companion on earth. Chimpanzees are regularly documented as showing emotional traits like empathy, and altruism.
Ultimately, the study reveals a much more basic and natural reason for the violence. Chimps fight and eventually kill – out of necessity, or to get what they want. It also goes on to point out that “eliminating rivals” is a major concern for this species, thus creating an easy bridge for scientists to connect, in pointing out that people have also been shown to share some of these qualities.
However, the violence isn’t limited to outbursts of anger or rage. The outbursts even linger into situations where broad conflict, as is with humans is seen. This means war between groups over territory, food, and even mates.
In these situations it was found that just as in human conflict, collateral damage in form of innocent casualties was the norm. Nursing infants were often killed, or snatched away, during war-like conflicts between groups.
Maybe now as more information becomes available, and we begin to have better answers about the groups we model so much research on, we can better identify trends within our own species.