Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Chimps, altruism, and helping with the kids of others

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-01-30

Further to "Adoptive chimp single dads and the evolution of altruism" (2010-01-28), another pointer, to a chimp, Anjana, an "assistant" at a zoo, that has fostered tigers, leopards and orangs, titled "A Mom is A Mom no matter what the species".

Also, look down the bottom for the discussion of chimps and non-reciprocal (don’t expect anything in return) altruism in "Of rats and men: generalized reciprocal altruism" (2007-07-10), as well as "Human Rights: a regressive concept" (2008-05-04) and its links.

Unlike many photos of cute animals, where the punchline comes from a caption, here, the eyes have it.

Anjana the chimp and fostered tiger

Anjana the chimp and fostered tiger

"She has acted as a surrogate mother to leopards, lions and orangutans and has done the same with these baby white tigers.  She gives them a bottle and lies with them – she is a great assistant." – human colleague

Yeah… fostering something that is a natural predator of you:  that’s not natural, it’s a step above nature, showing a nobility many humans lack.

Anjana the chimp and fostered tiger

Anjana the chimp and fostered tiger

Anjana the chimp and fostered tiger

Anjana the chimp and fostered tiger


This nurturing tendency and intelligence was noted thousands of years ago by the early encyclopaedist, Pliny the Elder (who rushed by sea to the exploding Vesuvius for reasons both scientific and humanitarian – he succeeded in rescuing people, but died, possibly of a heart attack), in his charming  Natural History".

Simiarum quoque genera plura.  hominis figurae proxima caudis inter se distinguntur.  mira sollertia visco inungui laqueisque calciari imitatione venantium tradunt, Mucianus et latrunculis lusisse, fictas cera nuces vis distinguere;  lunam cavam triste esse quibus in eo genere cauda sit, novam exultatione adorari.  nam defectum siderum et ceterae pavent quadripedes.  simiarum generi praecipua erga fetum adfectio.  gestant catulos quae mansuefactae intra domos peperere, omnibus demonstrant tractarique gaudent, gratulationem intellegentibus similes.

The types of ape that are closest to humans in shape are distinguished from one another by their tails.  Apes are extraordinarily cunning characters….  Mucianus says that apes with tails have played draughts and can distinguish real nuts from imitations made from wax.  They are sad when the moon wanes and worship the new moon with great glee…

Apes are notably fond of their young.  Domesticated monkeys carry their new-born young about.  They show them off to everyone and are pleased to have them fussed over, and look like persons who understand they are being congratulated.

OK, so I have questions about the wording of the translation, despite being too rusty to do a better one, (which is why I’ve included a reasonably respected source text via Perseus so at least some of my known readers can translate it themselves) although I won’t disagree with the sentiment in the translation.


7 Responses to “Chimps, altruism, and helping with the kids of others”

  1. Rick Metta said

    To take on the characteristics of a chimp…a model of bodhicitta. Love to you all…

  2. Dave Bath said

    Chimps are hardly totally infused with the Buddha-nature. They have mens rea in my view, and can commit crimes they know are evil.

    They are so like us at their worst and best: with the easy, perhaps too easy, lives of many humans making altruism less likely, as detailed in my earlier article on the altruism in a particularly hard-pressed tribe of chimps.

    It’s the cost to the individual of adopting an unrelated infant that proves the better angels of their nature.

  3. […] Share this:ShareFacebookEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted […]

  4. […] Anjana the chimp fully embraces her motherly instincts. Pictured here with a white tiger, she is fond of taking care of all sorts of baby animals. Read about the loving chimp here. […]

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