Bio: Dr Cleve Hicks
Primatologist Dr Thurston Cleveland (Cleve) Hicks of The Faculty of Artes Liberales, The University of Warsaw has dedicated his life and career to studying the unique behaviour of the ground-nesting, termite mound-smashing Bili-Uéré sub-species of chimpanzees of the Congo.
He has made many fascinating and ground-breaking discoveries in chimpanzee behaviour and culture.
Dr Hicks speaks with Palm Oil Detectives about his chimpanzee research, the state of the world right now, veganism, deforestation, palm oil and what consumers can do to help the endangered animals of Africa.
Palm Oil Detectives interviews Primatologist Dr Cleve Hicks @Cleve_Hicks about why we must urgently respect the #cultures in non-human #apes, being #vegan #palmoil and why he believes in the #Boycott4WildlifeTweet
Monitoring the Bili-Uéré Chimpanzees
Jane Goodall’s discovery of stick tool use by the Gombe chimpanzees in the 1960’s changed this. Now we know that orangutans and many monkeys use tools as well, and that’s only and that’s only looking at primates.
Animals have complex societies, self-awareness, they engage in conduct cooperative hunting, warfare, and even have what looks like active teaching, in orcasDr Cleve Hicks
Culture is still revered by some as being a uniquely human characteristic. Our species has, indeed, ‘gone nuclear’, so to speak, with cumulative culture. Look around you.
Nevertheless, if we define culture as socially-transmitted behaviour that varies between populations, we can see at least the seeds of culture in other species, including chimpanzees.
My research shows that Bili-Uéré chimpanzees ignore the abundant Macrotermes termite mounds that are fished for with tools by chimpanzees living in many other areas, including Gombe. Instead, they prey on two other kinds of termites of the genera Cubitermes and Thoractotermes, that are common across chimpanzee range in Africa, but ignored by almost all other populations.
Instead of using tools to get them, the Bili-Uéré chimpanzees pound open their mounds against roots and rocks.
Unlike other chimpanzees but similar to gorillas, Bili-Uéré chimpanzees often make nests to sleep on the ground.
Unusual tool-using chimp culture discovered in the Congo – Mongabay Newscast
“Ground nesting is also relevant to our own evolution, because at some unknown time, our ancestors switched from sleeping in the trees to sleeping on the ground.”
Photo: PX Fuel
This process has accelerated rapidly over the past few decades. Although there are still 10s of 1000s of Eastern chimpanzees in Northern DRC, mining activities are spreading throughout the region, and these can cause great damage to wildlife: Eastern lowland gorillas, for instance, were decimated over the past few decades. Conflict related to mining can also lead to massacres and enslavement of local people.
“I am afraid the same thing will happen to chimpanzees quite soon, if the global community does not somehow tame its voracious appetite” ~ Dr Cleve Hicks
Photo: An open-cut cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The resources plundered here go into the lithium-ion batteries found in our tech devices.
I think we’re all beginning to realize how our recent cultural divorce from the rest of the natural world is having a terrible effect on ourselves and on all other life.
Oil palm has been used for millennia by indigenous peoples of Africa in an ecologically rather sound way.
The imminent homecoming of palm oil to Africa under the framework of global capitalism is likely to reduce the glorious Central African forests to ashes.
These forests are poised to be replaced by endless, lifeless plantations, just so we can all pay a slightly cheaper price for junk food.
These brands have products that contain palm oil sourced from mills that are responsible for the destruction of precious habitats of endangered species. Just in 2020 alone, these brands (along with many others) contributed to the destruction of 38,000ha of rainforest in Indonesia, SE Asia and Papua New Guinea. Therefore, these brands are directly involved in the extinction of species.
Despite the green tick of approval for the industry certificationContinue reading “Research: Palm Oil Deforestation and its connection to RSPO members/supermarket brands”
I salute the efforts of Palm Oil Detectives
I think the #Boycott4Wildlife is a good initiative
Photo: PX Fuel
Palm Oil Detectives helps to shine light on these abuses and bring some degree of accountability to this immensely destructive oil palm behemoth
It is also critical to reach those millions of well-meaning people who may be unaware of the effects that their daily supermarket purchases are having on the natural world. The problems seem so huge. There seems to be so little that an individual can do.
But consumers can and should choose to boycott companies who are behaving irresponsibly and unethically. Going vegan, as I did years ago, is one way an individual can make a big difference.Dr Cleve Hicks
“Consumers can and should #boycott brands causing #palmoil #meat #soy #deforestation. I support the #Boycott4Wildlife, going vegan is another way an individual can make a difference to #rainforests #animals” #Primatologist @Cleve_HicksTweet
Greenwashing is rife with the foods we eat and the products we buy
Labelling products as forest-friendly is a start. Although there is loads of corruption around the world about to how these labels, including palm oil, are certified.
I make every effort in my personal life to not buy products containing palm oil.Dr Cleve Hicks
Food manufacturers should offer us consumers a greater variety of tasty vegan products and also food that does not use palm oil or soy, that has been harvested from the ashes of old-growth tropical forests.
Consumers should seek out and demand more locally-grown foods in their supermarkets.
I wrote the children’s book ‘A Rhino to the Rescue’ because rhino populations have been decimated in the past century
Sometimes working in conservation can be extremely frustrating. Seeing many dead primate orphans in the Congo had a deep effect on me. So I decided to use watercolours and create my own world and hero, the endearingly bumbling Ernest Horningway. He is a gentrified rhino who goes to Africa to meet his wild cousins and help them. It’s difficult to convey the terrible problem of wildlife trafficking to children.
I also wanted to help out the brave conservationists in the field protecting Ernest’s cousins, which is why we donate some of the proceeds of the book to Black Mambas and Bush Babies. Big news: we have a French translation of the book coming out very soon!
When you purchase the book ‘A Rhino to the Rescue’, 10% of proceeds go towards the Black Mambas
Buy now on Amazon and find out more on these social channels
Along with the Black Mambas and Bush Babies which I previously mentioned, animal activists can help by supporting these great organisations:
They have protected the wildlife of Bili for the past 10 years. They co-funded my 2012 surveys which revealed a stable chimpanzee population. This survey helped convince them to set up a project there.
These people work hard to protect the fauna of Democratic Republic of Congo and Bili.
They provide a home for orphan chimpanzees and other primates, and employ local people to give them care.
These people heroically work around the clock to protect non-human primates around the world.
I recommend this organisation as well, they focus on saving the critically endangered West African chimpanzees.
This organisation does incredible work to save bonobos.
Another very effective way to help endangered wildlife is to go vegan
I have been vegan for 20 years. I was inspired to do so while studying western lowland gorillas for 2 years in a forest called Mondika. After all, nobody asks a (mostly) vegan silverback gorilla, how he gets his protein!
Really, if one cares about the state of our global environment the easiest and most effective thing anyone can do is go vegan, or at least greatly reduce one’s consumption of meat and dairy products.
What is more important, another lousy hamburger or the survival of the Amazon and Congolese rainforests, and all the plants, nonhuman animals and people living in them? Not to mention what we are doing to our seas!Dr Cleve Hicks
Illustrations: Dr Cleve Hicks
Words: Dr Cleve Hicks
Chimpanzee Culture Wars: Rethinking Human Nature Alongside Japanese, European, and American Cultural Primatologists This book with deals with the debate about non-human culture, as well as the conservation crisis facing non-human apes.