CHURCH OF THE APES: Scientists think chimps may have religious beliefs

London – VIJAY SHAH via ANDREW GRIFFIN and The Independent

Scientists are studying footage shot by the Chimbo Foundation and PanAf of strange behaviour by a group of African chimpanzees, which they may think indicate the chimps are performing rituals, which may indicate belief in a religion, according to Britain’s The Independent newspaper, and first reported last year (2016).

The footage shows chimps in a forest clearing in an unnamed part of West Africa, carrying stones and arranging them in little ‘cairns’. Mainly though, the chimps, including a mother carrying her baby, are seen hurling rocks against the bases of certain wide-bottomed trees, while screeching loudly. Other apes have been seen throwing smaller rocks into holes in the trees, creating deposits of material. It is surmised that this unusual behaviour, which has only so far been among this West African band of chimps, could be the beginnings of ritual behaviour. The participation of the mother and younger apes means the stone-throwing is highly unlikely to be mating behaviour, and the throwing does not also point to territorial marking.

 

Scientists studying the apes say their strange activities can give an insight into early human rituals and religious beliefs. Ancient humans constructed cairns and other rock formations as part of nature worship, one of the most famous and advanced examples being the UK’s Stonehenge monument. Chimps and other great apes have already shown the kind of intelligence associated with humans, for example in using sticks as tools to extract grubs and ants. Yet the stone-throwing in West Africa does not fulfill a functional purpose, such as finding food.

The researchers, whose institution was not mentioned in the Independent report, but described in the video above as being from Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Biology, wrote in their report abstracts on the chimp rituals: “This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees,”

“The ritualized (sic) behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites”

Interestingly, the scientists also found in their research that people in West Africa who follow traditional religions also enact similar rituals involving the construction of cairns at sacred trees.

In a piece written around the findings, researcher Laura Kehoe described the experience of watching the chimp look around and then fling a rock at the tree trunk.

Nothing like this had been seen before and it gave me goose bumps,” she wrote.

Marking pathways and territories with signposts such as piles of rocks is an important step in human history,” wrote Kehoe. “Figuring out where chimps’ territories are in relation to rock throwing sites could give us insights into whether this is the case here.”

SOURCES:

The Independent, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/TheIndependentOnline/

“Mysterious chimpanzee behaviour could be ‘sacred rituals’ and show that chimps believe in god” – Andrew Griffin, The Independent (4 March 2016) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/mysterious-chimpanzee-behaviour-could-be-sacred-rituals-and-show-that-chimps-believe-in-god-a6911301.html

VIDEO CREDIT:

“This Could Be First-Ever Observed Ritual Practice Among Chimpanzees” – Hjalmar Kuehl and team/Scientific Reports/MPI-EVA/PanAf/Chimbo Foundation/GeoBeats News, YouTube (1 March 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEQOThqq2pk

 

HIV ORPHANS: Beauty contest winner sparks controversy after meeting children wearing protective gloves

Johannesburg – VIJAY SHAH via CHRIS BAYNES and The Independent

A winner of the Miss South Africa beauty pageant has sparked controversy after visiting a home for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS while wearing protective gloves, the Independent newspaper of Britain reported today.

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters visited a soup kitchen in the major city of Johannesburg to meet with the orphans. She was seen wearing gloves, which have led observers to accuse her of being racist. She was handing out hot meals to the orphans as part of the Winter Soup Drive charity event at the Ikageng community centre in Johannesburg, organised by the city’s Maslow Hotel. The Miss South Africa, aged 22 and of mixed heritage, however insisted the gloves were worn for hygienic reasons as she was working with food. On Twitter, Nel-Peters showed herself sitting down on steps with some of the Ikageng orphans, eating soup and bread rolls with them.

 

The picture shows Nel-Peters wearing what appears to be white latex surgical gloves as she eats a roll. It sparked a backlash from other Twitter users who claimed Nel-Peters was being racist or that she was afraid of being ‘contaminated’ by the children, many of whom had lost parents to HIV/AIDS or suffered from the virus themselves. South Africa has one of the world’s highest numbers of infected people. The 2007 UNAIDS report estimated that 5,700,000 South Africans had HIV/AIDS, or just under 12% of South Africa’s population of 48 million.

One Twitter user wrote: “I want to know why she would put on latex gloves to touch black children.” Another said: “I really can’t believe ‘our’ Miss SA is wearing latex so that she can touch these kids!” A third suggested she wore gloves “to protect herself from black kids” because she feared they would “contaminate her”. The backlash soon grew into a Twitter hashtag competition, #MissSAChallenge, which went viral this past Thursday, where users began posting pictures of themselves wearing white latex gloves, making fun of the beauty queen’s decision.

Some posted photos of themselves wearing gloves to type at a desk, make a drink, and read a book.

The Ikageng centre has spoken out against the challenge. Its programme director, Carol Dyanti, said All volunteers, including our staff members, wore gloves during the food preparation. It was mandatory.

“It was such successful day and I am sorry that the focus is now on the glovs (sic) rather than the positive impact it had.”

Nel-Peters also spoke out against the controversy, stating in the Independent story via an uploaded video on Twitter: “We were handing out food to young kids and that was the only intention with wearing the gloves.

“It was purely to be as hygienic as possible. I really feel like my intention were really misunderstood but I would like to apologise if I offended anyone.”

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, who was born in Sedgefield in the Western Cape province in 1995, is a model who was crowned Miss South Africa this year and will go on to represent the country at the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants this year. Latex gloves are often worn by people working in catering and hospitality, as well as in the medical field, for reasons of hygiene and safety.

SOURCES:

The Independent, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/TheIndependentOnline/

“Miss South Africa sparks uproar by wearing gloves to meet orphans with HIV” – Chris Baynes, The Independent (8 July 2017) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/miss-south-africa-wears-gloves-to-meet-hiv-orphans-uproar-demi-leigh-nel-peters-a7829581.html?cmpid=facebook-post

CLOSING DOWN THE SLAMMERS: Netherlands shuttering prisons

The Hague – VIJAY SHAH via CHRIS WELLER, Business Insider and Independent

While many countries are experiencing a boom in their prison populations leading to overcrowded cells and jails, and in the worse cases, lethal riots, the Netherlands is witnessing the opposite. The country has such well behaved citizens that prisons are being shut down, according to the United Kingdom’s Independent newspaper.

 

 

In 2013, Dutch correctional authorities closed down thirteen jails, with plans for some to be converted into temporary accommodation for refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war. Another five prisons are expected to be gone by the end of this year, according to internal documents seen by the newspaper De Telegraaf.

While the prison closures are reassuring for the Dutch people, knowing that theirs is a safe society, they will also cost 2,000 jobs with another 700 being transferred to other roles within the country’s law enforcement sector. The prison closures come in the wake of a trend of declining crime rates since 2004, the Telegraph states. There were so many jail cells lying unused in the Netherlands that authorities imported 240 Norwegian prisoners to keep correctional facilities viable.

As well as the measured decline in criminal activities, the Netherlands takes a liberal approach to criminal punishment, choosing to focus on prisoner rehabilitation instead of detainment. Electronic tagging programmes and a relaxed attitude to drug use have also contributed to the shrinking number of the detained. Out of a total population of 17 million, the Netherlands only has around 11,600 prisoners, which works out to 69 incarcerations per 100,000 people.

SOURCES:

The Independent, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/TheIndependentOnline/

“Dutch prisons are closing because the country is so safe” – Chris Weller, Business Insider via The Independent (31 May 2017) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/dutch-prisons-are-closing-because-the-country-is-so-safe-a7765521.html?cmpid=facebook-post

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Prison Bound” – Thomas Hawk, Flickr (28 March 2013) https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/10490113913