When Chimpanzees Dance

I got a mention this week on the blog of a chimp sanctuary in Washington state.

In the wild, chimpanzees will sometimes appear to “dance.” The chimp in this video does this briefly; it’s the first time his caregivers have spotted him doing such a thing in captivity.

I mentioned chimp rain dances briefly in an article I did on one of these facilities for Discover magazine, back in 2002. The rain dance was just one of those bits of trivia you toss into an article when you’re writing it that ends up taking on a life of its own. In this case, that factoid came back around and made the piece. Even today, I occasionally get notes from people referencing that article, and they always say how the last line touched them.

Paging through the website of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, I discovered that my article actually inspired founder Keith LaChappelle to start his sanctuary. I love hearing stories like that. There aren’t many moments when a writer can say that his or her work has made a difference in the world. This is my, like, one time. I’m proud of it.

My chimp piece was later featured in the Best American Science Writing anthology in 2003. The piece is also included in my collection of nonfiction science pieces, The Scientist & The Sociopath. But you can read the whole chimp piece for free on Discover’s website.

Related: The Death of a Chimp