CONTRARY to previous research a new study revealed that Chimpanzees can be as selfless and charitable as some humans. Chimps also appeared sensitive to whether or not an individual deserves a handout, the new research showed.
In their natural habitat, chimps were seen to help each other and show evidence of empathy, including reassuring distressed members of their group.
Previously it was believed that chimps were innately selfish, only displaying acts of generosity when pressured or tricked into doing so. It was suspected that previous studies had been too complex so a simple test of chimp charity was designed by a US team at the Yerkes National Primate Research Centre at Emory University, Atlanta.
In the new study, female chimps could chose between different coloured tokens from a bin. One colour could be exchanged for edible treats for both members of a pair, while another colour only yielded a personal reward.
All the chimps opted for the token that gave the treat for their partner, unless the partnering chimp made a fuss, begged or spat water at those exchanging the tokens.