Chimpanzees shown to be more than cute

The Family of Chimps The Discovery Channel (cable), Sunday, 9-10 p.m. Director/cameraman/editor: Bert Haanstra. Commentary: Adrian Brine. I'd like to introduce you to some remarkable friends.

I met them recently in a documentary about a colony of 26 chimpanzees in Burgers' Zoo in Holland, and now I number them among my most fascinating friends.

Enclosed by a moat, this experimental colony is enjoyed by the public at the same time it is observed by Dutch scientists. On TV, it may be unnerving for casual viewers to see these humanlike creatures engage in so many humanlike activities ... and very often react very much like their human counterparts.

Other characteristics

The film demonstrates chimps' mother-child relationships, their quest for power, their political maneuvering, their use of tools, their ingenious play activities, and their communal feelings, as well as some antisocial behavior.

Unlike many past documentaries about chimps, this one does not focus on showing how cute the creatures are, although cute is really what they are ... among other things. It focuses on the complexities of their societal structure, reminding us that the complexities of our own are not unique in nature.

By the end of the hour, you will be on a first-name basis with these chimpanzees. While you might hesitate to invite them for dinner, you will undoubtedly become interested enough to want to see more of them. And in some ways, getting to know these chimpanzees better may help you know yourself a little better, too.

Entertaining hour

For some, all of this humanlike activity may make for slightly uncomfortable viewing. The ultimate compensation, however, is an hour of extraordinarily entertaining and informative television.

The Discovery Channel features 18 hours a day of documentaries on science, nature, technology, human nature, world exploration, and history. It is now available in nearly 30 million television households.

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