A preliminary analysis of wound care and other-regarding behavior in wild chimpanzees at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda.


Caring for others is a key feature of human behavior. Mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, and other group members provide care in the form of provisioning, protection, and first aid. To what extent is other-regarding behavior present in our primate relatives? Here we describe an unusual incident of other-regarding behavior toward an injured juvenile female chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) at Ngogo in Kibale National Park, Uganda. After the juvenile received a mild head wound from an adult female, several adolescent and juvenile chimpanzees gathered to touch, lick, and peer at the wound. One adolescent male wiped a leaf across the cut. Another adolescent male later groomed the injured female and briefly carried her. Across a 5-year period, we observed only three other instances of other-directed wound care in chimpanzees, occurring in 4% (4/100) of cases in which we observed individuals with fresh wounds, and 57 other instances of allomaternal carrying. Despite the infrequency of such behaviors, our study adds another chimpanzee field site to the list of those where other-directed wound care has been observed. Observations from wild chimpanzees provide insight into empathy and may inform our understanding of the evolution of other-regarding behavior in humans.
Last updated on 09/03/2021