Meet Moboulou

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 12:00pm

Chimpanzees like Moboulou demonstrate many human-like behaviors.  Like us, rules govern chimpanzee societies and there are standards that all individuals must respect and adhere to in order to maintain harmony and stability in the community.  The first rule is that there is a single alpha male in each community who must be obeyed.  Moboulou represents this social figure in his community and he plays the part very well.  Moboulou is not overly violent or authoritarian.  Instead, he uses his strong character and diplomacy to mitigate and resolve conflicts.  He is an ideal leader.

Chimpanzees can be very violent, however, most of the time they tend to be generous and kind toward one another.  This allows them to recruit and maintain important friends who can help them in times of need.  Moboulou’s ability to attract and retain allies is superior to other chimpanzees.  He could never have achieved his status without his wisdom and charisma.  The manner with which he interacts with his community members is amazing. 
When Moboulou has a problem that he cannot solve, he calls on his carefully cultivated group of friends.  How did Moboulou recruit this network of allies?  Essentially, he did what many leaders do:  He demonstrated generosity to and confidence in his group members; he hugged and embraced them and supported them through difficult times; and he even joked and played with them. 
It is particularly interesting to observe Moboulou at lunch.  The chimpanzees take a portion of fruit and move away from one another, sitting on the ground with food piled safely between their legs.  As the head of the group, Moboulou selects the best fruit and takes a large share.  After a few minutes, most of the chimpanzees have finished eating their portion, but Moboulou continues feasting while he guards three large delicious lemons between his legs.
Lemons are the favorite fruit of N’Golo, a member of Moboulou’s community.  N’Golo approaches Moboulou and sits facing the lemons.  In a defensive maneuver, Moboulou takes his hand and sweeps the lemons closer to his body.  N’Golo is one of Moboulou’s closest male allies and he begs for a lemon with his palm facing upward.  Moboulou turns away from N’Golo and starts to eat one of the lemons, prompting N’Golo to make a noise like a crying child, which sounds like “uh, uh, uh.”  After a few minutes, Moboulou caves in and decides to share.  He takes the pulp of the lemon from his mouth and leaves it on his lower lip in full view of N’Golo.  N’Golo leans in with his lips and gently takes part of the pulp from Moboulou.  While it is not much, there is value is in this generous gesture and Moboulou knows it.  Only by nurturing his important friendships will Moboulou maintain his powerful position.

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