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Chimpanzee Culture WarsRethinking Human Nature alongside Japanese, European, and American Cultural Primatologists$
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Nicolas Langlitz

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691204284

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691204284.001.0001

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Field Experiments with a Totem Animal

Field Experiments with a Totem Animal

(p.231) 6 Field Experiments with a Totem Animal
Chimpanzee Culture Wars

Nicolas Langlitz

Princeton University Press

This chapter follows Tetsuro Matsuzawa and his coworkers to their outdoor laboratory in Bossou, Guinea. Revered as the totem animal of the Manon and deprived of almost all primary rainforest, the Bossou chimpanzees had learned to live on human crops in an agricultural landscape. In contrast to Christophe Boesch's emphasis on so-called wild cultures, Matsuzawa speculated that historically, this chimpanzee community might have learned from the human population how to crack the oil palm nuts that local farmers cultivated. Field experiments allowed the primatologists to study how female immigrants passed on their knowledge of how to crack other kinds of nuts within the group. At this point, Japanese cultural primatology contradicted the Manon's mythological understanding of “their” apes as a bounded community of nonnatural animals. Chimpanzee road crossings provided an opportunity for a natural — or really “naturecultural” — experiment in an anthropogenic environment. Ethnoprimatologists collaborating with Matsuzawa studied the ecological interface between humans and primates and used their insights for conservationist ends. After a political conflict over the protection of a small patch of primary forest on a sacred hill, the Japanese primatologists took over the Manon's position that the livelihood of the Bossou chimpanzees was better served by plantations than by a nature reserve.

Keywords:   Tetsuro Matsuzawa, totem animal, Manon, Bossou chimpanzees, human crops, Japanese cultural primatology, chimpanzee road crossings, ethnoprimatologists, Japanese primatologists

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