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Monkeys Cooperate and Share

By George Grow

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English Science Report.

Sharing and cooperation are two of the first things that parents teach their children. Now research scientists in the United States have found evidence that one kind of monkey also learns to cooperate and share with other monkeys.

Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, showed that the monkeys cooperate to gather food and share it with others helping them. The researchers say their study could help understand the way humans act. Their findings were reported earlier this month in the publication Nature.

Frans (FRANZ) de Waal (duh-VAL) and his team at the Yerkes (YUR-KEEZ) Regional Primate Center did the study. They studied the activities of capuchin (ka-POO-chin) monkeys. Capuchins are small primates withlarge brains. They live in the forests of South America.

In the wild, the monkeys hunt animals in a group. However, only one monkey usually makes the capture. That individual shares the meat with other members of the group.

Mr. de Waal organized an experiment to test this sharing activity in the laboratory. His team put two capuchin monkeys of the same sex in a box. The two were chosen from a group of monkeys that normally lives together.

The box was open on one side. It was divided by a wire barrier. A tray holding two clear containers was put next to the opening of the box. One of the containers was filled with pieces of fruit. The other container was empty.

The researchers say one capuchin monkey could not reach the fruit without the help of the other monkey. The capuchins could only get the food if they worked together. When they succeeded, the monkey that collected the food always shared it with the helper.

The study found that the monkeys were more willing to share food with a partner if they cooperated to get the food. The helper also was more likely to help again if it had received food for its earlier work. The study also found that the monkeys only cooperated when they could see each other.

Mr. de Waal says capuchin monkeys are distantly related to humans. He says the findings suggest that the ideas of sharing and cooperation probably are older than humans.

This VOA Special English Science Report was written by George Grow. This is Bill White.


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