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Time for Real action on Chimpanzees and other Hominids


Balls, M.

ATLA, 35, 191-195 (2007)

In October 1957, now almost 50 years ago, I went up to Oxford to read for a degree in Zoology and Comparative Anatomy. In the Comparative Anatomy part of the course, we considered every Order of every Phylum of animals, beginning with the Protozoa, which includes one of the most famous animals, Amoeba proteus, and ending, two years later, with the Primate Family, Hominidae (the Great Apes), which includes chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans — and humans. We were not allowed to call Amoeba primitive, since this perjorative and derogatory term should not be applied toan animal which has evolved to survive and maintain complicated relationships with its environment, just as successfully as we have. Similarly, we saw Homo sapiens mainly as a somewhat sophisticated ape, rather than a unique species set apart from all other animals. Desmond Morris carved out a career for himself with this approach, when he wrote The Naked Ape: A Zoologist’s Study of the Human Animal, published in 1967 and still in print today.