A BRIEF HISTORY
In the late 1950s, the great anthropologist Louis Leakey searched for a student to study wild chimpanzees in their natural habitat; he was convinced that this kind of investigation would provide important information about the behaviour of our early ancestors. His quest eventually ended with Jane Goodall, who began her research on chimpanzees in Gombe in the early 1960s, near the shore of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, East Africa.
During the course of the following years, our knowledge of wild chimpanzees relied almost exclusively on observations collected from two communities – Goodall's work at Gombe, and the work of Toshisada Nishida and his colleagues, conducted in Mahale Mountains National Park, some 200 km south of Gombe. Both populations, located on the eastern side of Lake Tanganyika, live in relatively similar environments, characterised by a mosaic of savanna, woodland and dense shrub habitats. The last three decades of the 20th century saw the success of these two studies turn the Tanzanian chimpanzee into something of a prototype for ‘The Wild Chimpanzee’, and behavioural diversity was restricted to the differences between these two populations. Anthropological and psychological literature and textbooks are still strongly biased in assuming that Tanzanian chimpanzee behaviour represents all chimpanzees.
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