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The Atlantic - November 2011

chimp sighting on a conservation trip in tanzania's mahale range - by millie kerr - november 2011

We are crouched low to the ground, hovering like flies.

Caesar rolls onto his back, exposing his belly as he scratches his brow. At this distance, I can see the individual lashes, so like ours, surrounding his coffee-colored eyes. For a while, he watches us; poses for us; seems to want to communicate with us.

Hamza, our trusty guide, whispers words of warning and encouragement from further down the trail, "Be still. Don't make any sudden movements. Make sure your camera flash is off."

This is not my first time seeing apes, but it's certainly the most dangerous. These are wild chimpanzees, not baboons or other monkeys I've encountered while traveling. They're bigger, stronger, and wiser: their social hierarchy has more to it than brute force and genetics. Manipulative chimps often reach the upper echelon of chimp society. Such is the case with Pimu, the current alpha, a tyrannical leader whose rap sheet includes raping his own mother.

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the atlantic, November 2011