Wild Chimpanzees Found to Play With 'Dolls'

The Physicians Committee

Wild Chimpanzees Found to Play With 'Dolls'

January 2, 2011

A new report in Current Biology shows that chimpanzees in eastern Africa may use sticks as dolls. Chimpanzees from the Kanyawara community in Uganda carry sticks around in a way similar to the way that children use dolls as human surrogates, taking them from tree to tree, patting and embracing them, and even putting them to bed. Researchers found that female chimpanzees were more likely to engage in these behaviors than their male counterparts. Researcher Sonya Kahlenberg of Bates College reports that the chimpanzees’ play may be practice for adulthood. Her findings, published with co-author Richard Wrangham, shed new light on the imaginations of chimpanzees and their ability to conceptualize inanimate objects as living individuals—just as human children do.

Kahlenberg SM, Wrangham RW. Sex differences in chimpanzees' use of sticks as play objects resemble those of children. Curr Biol. 2010;20:R1067-1068.

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