Mar 8, 2019

Get to Know Chimpanzees, Our Closest Animal Relative, in a New Online Course


They hang out with their families. Their kids like to play. They make their bed every night. They get into fights with their neighbors. Chimpanzees: they’re just like us.

In fact, chimpanzees are one of humans’ closest animal relatives. A new online course from Duke University will help you get to know these fascinating relatives.

The course, “Chimpanzee Behavior and Conservation,”  aims to give learners a new appreciation of the deep similarities between chimpanzees and humans in intelligence, tool use, hunting, personality and social relationship—as well as some key differences.

The course was created by three evolutionary anthropologists affiliated with the Jane Goodall Institute Research Center at Duke University: Anne Pusey, Emily Boehm and Kara Walker.

Almost nothing was known chimpanzees behavior in the wild until Jane Goodall started her groundbreaking study of the chimpanzees of Gombe, Tanzania in 1960. Her early discoveries, such as her observations of chimpanzees using tools, changed our view of what makes humans unique.

Pusey, Boehm and Walker have followed in Goodall’s footsteps, working with and researching the same chimpanzee families that Jane Goodall first encountered over 55 years ago. The course includes stunning video footage of the chimpanzees in the wild, and of our instructors at work in the field in Tanzania.

In addition to learning about chimpanzee behavior, the instructors want learners to better understand the conservation issues that have led to chimpanzees being declared an endangered species. Learners will explore the impact of human attitudes and behaviors, from using chimpanzees in the entertainment industry to habitat destruction, and learn what can be done to save our primate relatives.

“Chimpanzee Behavior and Conservation” is available now on Coursera.