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“When I first started at Gombe, I thought the chimps were nicer than we are,” Jane recalls wistfully. “But time has revealed that they are not. They can be just as awful.”

Frequently tender and compassionate, humanity’s closest living relatives are also capable of scheming, deceiving, and waging war. It came as a shock to Jane in 1974 when patrols of chimpanzees from the Kasakela community—one of four groups in the 20-square-mile park—began attacking chimps from the Kahama community to the south. She was stunned by reports of stealthy warriors moving through the forest in single file, hair bristling from fear and excitement, stepping from stone to stone to avoid making noise in what came to be known as the Four Year War.

By the end of the conflict, the Kahama community—seven males and three adult females and their young—had been annihilated. Researchers witnessed five of the attacks, in which Kasakela chimps tore at their victims’ flesh with their teeth as if they were common prey.

Fortunately, nothing so horrible has darkened the forest recently. To catch up on the latest news, what has been called the “continuing soap opera" at Gombe, Jane climbs the trail to the feeding station with Bill Wallauer and me. We sit outside the small metal building, bathed in the fragrance of the ripe bananas inside, to gossip about the chimps whose life stories represent the world’s longest continuous study of animals in the wild.

“IT’S SO SAD looking down this list,” Jane says, scanning the names of chimps who have come and gone at Gombe: David Greybeard, the confident male who first accepted her presence; Mike, the diminutive fighter who bluffed his way to the top position by banging empty kerosene cans; the aging Goliath, who was murdered by former chimpanzee friends; “Auntie” Gigi, the mannish old maid who surprised everyone by adopting three orphans; and Flint, the eight-year-old mama’s boy who died of grief when old Flo passed away. Each gave Jane a glimpse into the chimpanzee mind.

I ask about Passion and her daughter, Pom, who were seen to kill and eat three Kasakela infants and almost certainly killed seven newborns over a period of four years—a horrible time when Jane agonized over ways to stop them. She considered moving the pair to another valley, she says, or even temporarily crippling them. But the killings came to an end when Passion herself gave birth again in 1977. Four years later she was dead, victim of a painful, unidentified disease. And Pom, facing the hostility—and long memories—of Kasakela females, was forced to migrate to the Mitumba community to the north.

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