National Geographic : 2010 Feb
• chance to see what chimpanzee culture is really about," says J. Michael Fay, the WCS conserva- tionist who helped set up the Nouabalé-Ndoki Park. "Ninety- ve percent of chimps on Earth don't live like this because of humans." In the Kibale National Park and Budongo Forest Re- serve, two of the most important chimp study sites in Uganda, about a quarter of the popula- tion has snare wounds. At Gombe, the site in Tanzania pioneered by Jane Goodall, there are only about a hundred chimps le , and they are surrounded by humans. is is a powerful and troubling notion: What if everywhere scientists have thought they were observing chimps in their natural state, they've actually been studying behavior distorted by the presence of humans? Chimps are highly adaptive creatures. ey can get along just as well in the forests of Congo as on the dry savanna fringes of Senegal. But according to the fragile-cultures hypothesis, rst proposed by the Dutch primatologist Carel van Schaik, we may be radically underestimat- ing just how fragile chimp culture is. Humans don't necessarily have to be clear-cutting forests for our presence to distort primate be- havior. Even selective logging and casual hunt- ing can throw chimp society into disarray if it A small party of chimps triggers a remote video camera that researchers use to observe subjects without influencing behavior. A decade of study in this pristine habitat has yielded new insights into the complexity of chimpanzee culture.