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Extract from ‘Group Primate Behaviour’ by Prof Magnus Rasmussen

A controversial paper published in 1998 by Professor Magnus Rasmussen, Head of Anthropology & Zoology at the University of Oslo blew the lid off the behaviour of primates in limited environments and has been standard for furthering the study of primate group behaviour for over 15 years.

An extract from the paper on Group Primate behaviour by Prof Magnus Rasmussen can be found below:

Rolf (Thorson), Lenny (Andersen), Kirsten (Andersen) and Lars (Larson) spent over two years studying two groups of apes in the limited environment of the Congolese jungle bordered by the Ruwenzori Mountain Range and the Kasai river.

For ease of contact the two groups of apes were initially named Groups A and B but as what was supposed to be a two-month study turned into two years because of generous funding from several British organisations including the British Government they became the 37 and TRR.

What was most prevalent in both groups was the on-going intense power struggle which only increased with what appeared to be frustration when the fertile females rebuffed their advances time and time again. This was taken hardest by the Beta males, interestingly enough we were never able to identify an Alpha male in either the 37 or TRR groups.

Males in both groups used crude gestures and aggressive demonstrations of posturing both at the other groups and at non-apes and other perceived threats such as small shrubs and motes of light. This was often accompanied with prolonged eye contact and overt grunting.

The second observation was about security protocol in both families. There appeared to be no conventional loyalty that is found in most animal genus – rather a constant re grouping and founding of off-shoot smaller groups that would wave succulent leaves and berries hoping to secure allies in their fight for survival.

The third observation was that both the 37 and TRR appeared highly vigilant and exhibited paranoiac behaviour such as the afore mentioned aggressive posturing and something else surprising – the complete blindness to non-apes within their groups.

Group 37 were more welcoming of non-apes to their group – making it an open arrangement and seemingly unafraid of ridicule or the theft of females, stronger males and docile apes to other more dominant groups in the local area and further afield.

Whereas Group TRR would tear any perceived intruder to pieces in an orgy of violence and back-patting. They were seen constantly chewing the leaves from Eucalyptus bushes that are a known to have acute sedative qualities but also produces agitation, hallucinations and bizarre behaviour.

Male-on-male grooming was observed from the different groups and lifting logs and other heavy objects seemed to please them greatly attempting, we think, to foster a reaction from the other apes. We assume it again was linked to the fertile females relentless disinterest in the males from either group – the Alpha females that rebuffed the males were attacked, grunted at and eventually exiled.

One of the main conclusions drawn was that primate behaviour in closed environments gives life to self-pleasuring and anti-social behavioural mores in the males of both Group A (37) and Group B (TRR) but that more study was needed in the interim.

Extract ended.

The full paper can be found in the Oslo University library – please contact Agnes Olsen for further information.

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