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Working Group on Chimpanzee Cultures

Bringing together expertise on chimpanzee cultural behaviour, conservation science, and policy to drive multidisciplinary approaches to chimpanzee conservation


We are a multidisciplinary and international team of researchers and conservationists actively engaged in the conservation of chimpanzees, their habitats, and their cultures. Our members have diverse backgrounds, bringing together academic and practical expertise in chimpanzee behaviour, ecology and archaeology, as well as conservation, social sciences, community engagement, policy and project management.


The WGCC is part of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Primate Specialist Group (PSG) Section on Great Apes (SGA), whose overarching mission is to promote great ape conservation using the current best practices and technical information.


  • BUILD a collaborative network of specialists engaged in promoting, conserving, and researching chimpanzee cultures

  • IDENTIFY the avenues in which chimpanzee culture can be used as an asset for conservation

  • PROVIDE guidance to stakeholders and policy-makers on how chimpanzee culture can be integrated into broader conservation policies

  • DEVELOP a protocol for the integration and assessment of behavioural and cultural diversity in field surveys and population monitoring

  • SUPPORT in-country conservation and research efforts that seek to expand our collective knowledge of chimpanzee cultural diversity

  • PROMOTE multidisciplinary, inclusive, and holistic approaches to chimpanzee conservation that take into account the individuals, the population, its habitat, and its cultural behaviours, while also considering the local human communities and their needs

  • SHARE scientific understanding on chimpanzee culture and its relevance to conservation at local and global scales

Our Team

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Alex Piel

University College London

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Gaku Ohashi

Chubu University

Lydia Luncz - Lydia Luncz.jpg

Dr Lydia V. Luncz

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology


Catherine Hobaiter

University of St Andrews

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Emmanuel Danquah

Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology

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Mamadou Saliou Diallo

Guinée Ecologie


Susana Carvalho

University of Oxford

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Erin Wessling

Harvard University

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Tatyana Humle


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Kathelijne Koops

University of Zurich

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Rachel Ashegbofe

SW/Niger Delta Forest Project

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Liran Samuni

Harvard University


Katarina Almeida-Warren

University of Oxford


Ekwoge Abwe

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

& Ebo Forest Research Project

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Soiret Serge

Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d'ivoire & Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny


Ammie Kalan

 University of Victoria

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Kimberley Jane Hockings

 University of Exeter


Mimi Arandjelovic

German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research & Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology


Boesch Christophe

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology


Alejandra Pascual-Garrido

University of Oxford


Crickette Sanz

Washington University

Chimpanzee Culture 

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes ssp.) are one of our closest living relatives with whom we share a common ancestor that lived around 7-8 million years ago[1]. Currently, there are four recognised subspecies of chimpanzees[2]: Central chimpanzee (P. t. troglodytes); Western chimpanzee (P. t. verus); Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (P. t. ellioti); Eastern chimpanzee (P. t.schweinfurthii). All have extensive and diverse cultural repertoires and traditions[3,4], which researchers are continuing to uncover[5,6].

Cultural behaviours include tool use, vocal dialects, non-verbal communication (e.g., gestures), and feeding behaviours (e.g., what foods they eat and how they obtain them). Many of these behaviours vary between subspecies, and even within populations of the same subspecies. The variety of socially-learned behaviours, that is behaviours learned from others, unique to each chimpanzee society is termed cultural diversity. Many of these behaviours, especially those connected to foraging, allow chimpanzees to be flexible and adapt when faced with changing environmental conditions or disturbances.

Chimpanzees are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List[2], with the Western chimpanzee (P. t. verus) classified as Critically Endangered[7]. The main threats are habitat destruction, often as a result of agricultural expansion and industrial development, and hunting. These lead to population isolation and decline, which not only affect genetic diversity, but also cultural diversity by severing the social ties that enable the transmission and maintenance of behaviours within a social group. To aid conservation efforts, the preservation of cultural diversity, in tandem with genetic diversity, is vital to ensure that behavioural knowledge is not lost and that chimpanzees have a flexible tool-kit of behaviours to adapt to changing environmental conditions.


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