Frans Lanting: Photographer

A year ago at EG we shared images on the history of life on earth: from the big bang to the present.

What are you going to do after that? Outer space? We decided to do something more organic and specific. We focused on one group of 35 chimpanzees: CHIMPS at the edge (co-produced by Christina Egstrom, wife and partner)

We wanted to rethink the boundaries of chimps and apes and humans. Now we can appreciate them as close cousins, with the same kinds of enduring lives and personalities and discerning minds. Except for orangs, all great apes live in great Africa, and co-exist with gorillas.

Only a half dozen community of chimps have been studied in a long-term basis. Every time there’s a new study, we learn how chimps can vary. Their culture is very specific. The new ape lady, Jill Goodall, is studying chimps use of weapons. She’s interested to see how chimps and their habitat affects their behavior. We’re hoping this will give us insight into our own behaviors in the early days. Savanna woodland is where apes became human. and in southeast Senegal we can find the land where this happened.

Our main guide in the field could not read or write or had not met a photographer in his life. But he had an amazing sense of the chimps and where they resided.

Searching for chimps is a hard job – we had one meal a day in the evening. it’s not a 9-5 job, it’s a 5-9 job. But the best time to get close to chimps is when they take their mid-day siesta.

At dusk we hike back to the village and review our work. Chimps eat lots of greens and love fruit. Honey is like their candy, they go termite fishing (it’s a delicacy). When males get wild, females get out of the way.

[this is just a handful of what the presenters shared about chimp insights]

It was discovered that Fongoli chimps not only make tools but create deadly weapons and strategically hunt their prey. This is the first time outside of humans that mammals were seen to create and use weapons.

What else will these chimps show us given time and more space for observation?

Self-recognition is another factor that we thought were unique to humans. But we observe a child chimp testing the water in a watering hole, and then discovering (and playing with) her own reflection.

Whether there is a future for wild chimpanzees will be determined in this lifetime. We find this to be a big moral dilemma. We think we owe it to ourselves, our children … to make the right decision.

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