Chimp talk 'understood'

2014-07-04 12:05

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Cape Town – Researchers looking at wild chimpanzees in Uganda say they have succeeded in translating the signals apes use to communicate.

The scientists said that these specific chimps communicated 19 different and unique messages to each other.

The apes have a lexicon of 66 gestures.

During the research process the scientists followed and filmed chimp groups in Uganda according to the BBC. The researchers say that they witnessed at least 5 000 gestures that were meaningful.

This is the first and only form of deliberate communication that has been recorded in the animal kingdom, according to Dr Catherine Hobaiter, the lead researcher.

Chimps like humans have the ability to send a message or communicate; there is a system in order to communicate  Hobaiter argued.

There has been other research that indicates that monkeys and other apes have the ability to comprehend difficult information from another animal’s call but it seems the animals do not use their calls or voices intentionally to convey a message.

According to Dr Hobaiter this is the major difference between a call and a gesture.

Hobaiter compares this difference to a person screaming out when they are in pain. A person can scream to convey the pain but may not intentionally want to communicate this pain to others.

The scientists noted that many of the chimp’s gestures were unambiguous and were used to convey one consistent message. An example of this is when a chimp eats small bites of a leaf over and over, this is supposed to convey a need for sexual attention.

Other gestures appeared to be ambiguous, for instance "a grab" could indicate “climb on me”, “move away” or “stop what you’re doing”.

Some of the gestures were extremely delicate and finely nuanced, but other signals, seen on the footage, were very deliberate and intended to convey a message.

A mother would place her foot in front of her crying baby in order to say "climb on me”.

Dr Hobaiter hopes that the study will illustrate that humans are not the only species that use gestures to convey meaningful communication.

Below is some of the footage Dr Hobaiter and her team took.

Read more on:    uganda  |  research  |  animals  |  environment

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