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Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Kwa nini cheza (Why play)?
What is play good for anyway? I am interested in studying the benefits of play behavior, but after watching the chimpanzees for a month now, I’m scratching my head wondering, “What are these guys doing?” It’s something to watch the infants repeatedly climb a tree and then playfully wrestle with a playmate, often nearly falling. They tug at any body part they can grab a hold of while they are in a tree. Or, if the chimpanzees are playing on the ground, they will sometimes play chase around a tree, with the chaser and chasee readily changing roles.
Although play can be risky behavior, it appears as if the chimpanzees really enjoy engaging in play and will even laugh when they are tickling each other (it sounds like low frequency grunts). As the chimpanzees engage in this very uncoordinated behavior, I sometimes laugh along with them and thoroughly enjoy myself, especially during long play bouts. While, at least at this point, I am very confused as to why chimpanzees engage in such goofy play behavior, I look forward to studying play over the next several months to better understand this behavior.
Gombe Field Diaries
Lincoln Park Zoo is partnering with the Jane Goodall Institute to study and conserve chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, the site of Jane Goodall’s groundbreaking research. Our Gombe field diaries feature updates as scientists monitor chimpanzee health, study ape behavior and experience life in Gombe.
As director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lonsdorf leads Lincoln Park Zoo efforts in Gombe National Park.
Rachel Santymire, Ph.D.
An endocrinologist in the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, Santymire studies stress and reproduction in Gombe's chipmanzees.
A graduate student in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago, Matt is studying how levels of play in Gombe¹s chimpanzees influence stress, development and reproductive success.
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