CHAPTER 6

Chapter 6 is the third observational practicum. To understand what it means to be ourselves, as human beings, chimpanzees must be observed. The chimpanzee is our direct cousin, a blood relative, as it were.

Their continuous existence, parallel to our own, is our reality. Populations of the species Pan troglodytes (the common chimpanzee) live in the tropical forests of Africa, in particular in a belt from east to west, from Tanzania to Sierra Leone. The species Pan paniscus (the bonobo) lives in the forests of the Congo, south of the great bend in the Congo River. Direct observation of African chimpanzee populations is of course not feasible for European high school students. Fortunately, we have detailed descriptions of chimpanzee life in the wild (Goodall, 1986, the films of Hugo van Lawick, and De Waal and Lanting, 1997, among others). Van Lawick has extensively filmed the Troglodytes population in the Gombe River Reservation. These books and the film are required material in the curriculum. Adang’s 1993 book also gives a very detailed description of the Troglodyte population at the zoo in Arnhem (the Netherlands). Students can observe the chimpanzees at the zoo in Arnhem, year after year, enabling the students to get to know them, over time, as individuals. This type of observation can be very significant for adolescents as it provides the opportunity for them to see how these close primate relatives organize themselves in a group, how they manage group life and how they enjoy each other.

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Chapter 7