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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

4 - Play and exploration


Play versus exploration: how can we distinguish them from each other? This is difficult because their form and contexts appear similar. Exploration comprises behavioural patterns that animals seem to use for collecting information on the surrounding environment, an endeavour fuelled by curiosity. Exploration is often intermingled with play, in particular in immature chimpanzees, as described below. Accordingly, I do not focus on differentiating them or subject the reader to a dry disentanglement of the two ‘categories’ in detail. Instead, I simply emphasise that both exploration and play seem to be seeds of culture. Through video monitoring of Mahale chimpanzee behaviour (Nishida et al. 2010), we have found that there are many innovative patterns in play.

Curiosity and the collection of information

Chimpanzees inspect any unusual object in their environment. If we leave binoculars, a handkerchief, field notes, or anything new to the environment behind on the observation path, one of the chimpanzees, usually a youngster, picks up, sniffs, and sometimes even carries the foreign object.

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