Significance to humans

The great apes are our closest living evolutionary relatives. The degree of genetic relatedness between humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos is greater than the relationship between gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos. Great apes make and use tools, form life-long social bonds, demonstrate grief, spontaneously adopt and care for infants, and show evidence of compassion for each other. They also wage war, rape, practice infanticide, and hunt baboons for food. In captivity, they have learned to use language and numbers, generously accepted humans as social equals, and taught us that the mental differences between humans and the other great apes are only in degree, not in kind. They provide us with the best measure of what is uniquely human, and what we must admit we share with them.

1. Female and infant Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus); 2. Male western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla); 3. Female bonobo (Pan paniscus); 4. Male Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii); 5. Male eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei); 6. Male chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). (Illustration by Jonathan Hig-gins)

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