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Ape Genius

Program Overview

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Gorilla with telephone Note: This program includes a short scene where bonobos are shown engaging in mating and social bonding activities. Please preview the program to determine its appropriateness for your classroom.

NOVA explores evidence for intelligence and culture among the apes and ponders the question about what differences exist between apes and humans.

The program:

  • presents field observations of apes in Senegal, Africa, who have been seen hunting for small primates (called bush babies) with spears they have made from tree branches.

  • reports on experiments designed to understand more about the mechanical aptitude of apes.

  • reveals the surprising discovery that chimpanzees—who were thought to fear water—were seen cooling off in a tiny pond.

  • explores the ways that apes master imitation, a skill considered core to the development of human culture.

  • reviews Jane Goodall's research that revealed the ability of chimpanzees to craft tools made for a specific purpose and contributed to the idea that chimpanzees have emotional lives as exhibited through behaviors such as mother-baby bonding.

  • presents experiments that seek to discover whether, and to what extent, apes can cooperate.

  • details studies that investigate both the positive and negative social emotions of apes.

  • surveys research done to better understand the abilities of apes to do math and communicate with humans.

  • provides reasons why, even though apes exhibit a number of behaviors that suggest that they have some degree of culture, they fall far short of what humans achieve.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after program is recorded off the air.

Teacher's Guide
Ape Genius
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