Wednesday, October 31, 2007

War - It's Not Just For People Anymore

When I heard George Carlin comment that people are the only species on earth that kill other members of our species, I sort of wrote it off as artistic license, not a scientific statement. He's a comedian, so the things he says don't have to meet the same standards as, say, a document from RAND.

So, imagine my surprise when I was reading a part of a report from RAND, and it said that humans are the only species that has wars. Um, doesn't anyone else watch Meerkat Manor? Those little buggers charge into another meerkat group's territory, kill the babies and drive away the grownups, then make themselves at home. If that's not war, what is it?

My sister might not want to read this next line, but chimps are even more warlike. Here's an excerpt from a NY Times article about a chimp war:

Logging of tropical forests in the central African country of Gabon appears to have touched off a savage territorial war among chimpanzees in which four of every five chimps die, says a field biologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society. ...chimps, the animals most closely related to humans, are known to be highly jealous of territory, patrolling and defending borders constantly. Even without logging, violent clashes are known to erupt in which chimps kill each other with their bare hands and feet. In at least two documented cases, large communities of chimpanzees have systematically hunted down smaller ones and killed all members.

And another one from the Telegraph (British newspaper):

In the Seventies, Prof Wrangham and Dr Goodall watched a group of chimpanzees split into two factions. One group killed every male and some of the females in the other group. The victims had recently been their companions.

I'm not trying to pick on chimps or meerkats or any other fuzzy, adorable little creature. I'm just trying to set the record straight. Humans aren't the only ones who fight wars. I suppose we could define war so tightly that the term only applies to people, but what would be the point of that?


Kim said...

Don't worry, I'm well aware of the violent nature/capabilities of chimps. ;) I don't claim to care about chimps because they're sweet, that's for sure!

(And don't even get me started on meerkats ... Meerkat Manor is too scary for me to watch.)

Kim said...

PS - Lots of other animals kill their own species, but they don't always live in big societal groups so perhaps it's not considered an all out war (then is it terrorism?). Consider lions and bears who will kill babies that aren't theirs, or some types of birds where two eggs are laid and whoever hatches first kills the other one.

The Dan Ward said...

Yeah, Meerkat Manor can be rough to watch sometimes... like when the invading tribe comes into the den where the babies are, when the rest of the group is out hunting.


Kim said...

Or when the babysitter decides to move the babies to a new den and leaves one to fry out in the sun.