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Episode 31: The Four Year War

A scientist solves the mystery of the only known chimpanzee civil war…thus far.

In 1960, Louis Leakey sent Jane Goodall to start her study of chimpanzees at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Her first decade of research led her to think that chimpanzees were like nicer versions of humans. But in the early 1970s, the Gombe chimp community split in two and deadly violence erupted. The cause has remained a mystery until now. A new study by Leakey Foundation grantee Joseph Feldblum reveals similarities between the ways chimpanzee and human societies break down.


Thanks to Joseph Feldblum for sharing his work. Visit his website to learn more about his research.

Thanks to Jane Goodall for everything. Visit her website to learn more about her work and the Gombe chimpanzees.

The archival audio used in this episode is from The Leakey Foundation Archive. The narration in the first part of our story was recorded in 1970 for a Leakey Foundation filmstrip. The lecture audio is from a 1978 Leakey Foundation lecture entitled “Cannibalism and Warfare in Chimpanzee Societies.”

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Origin Stories is a project of The Leakey Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding human origins research and outreach. The Leakey Foundation funds cutting-edge research about human evolution and human behavior. Support this show and the science we talk about with a tax-deductible donation. Thanks to a generous supporter, your donation will automatically be quadrupled!

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Editor: Julia Barton

Host and Series Producer: Meredith Johnson

Associate Producer: Shuka Kalantari

Sound Design: Katie McMurran

Theme Music: Henry Nagle

Additional Music:

Lee Rosevere “Tech Toys” 


This season of Origin Stories is made possible by support from Dixon Long, Jeanne Newman, and Camilla Smith.

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