Richard Dawkins visits Living Links

November 16th 2007:

It was a bitterly cold Atlanta day, with temperatures hovering around freezing and the constant threat of rain. Not the sort of weather that a film crew likes to contend with, but the date for Prof. Dawkins’s visit had been set for many weeks and so the show had to go on. He was here to film an interview with Dr. de Waal as part of his upcoming TV series ‘Origin of Species‘, and hopefully, weather permitting to meet the chimpanzees as well. The topic of the show is evolution, and so he was interested in Dr. de Waal’s perspective on the evolution of emotions, based on behaviors such as helping and food sharing that he has observed in both the Arnhem and Living Links chimpanzee groups.

The film crew arrived early to set up all their equipment at the FS1 chimpanzee enclosure while the chimpanzees looked on, curious and excited – film crews usually mean food treats! Given the temperature, we were surprised that the chimpanzees chose to be outside at all, rather than in their heated indoor building, but apparently their curiosity in the film crew (or perhaps it was their unfamiliar British accents!) kept their interest peeked enough to brave the cold.

Once the cameras were in place, the microphones switched on, and the watermelons put into the enclosure, Prof. Dawkins and Dr. de Waal discussed the topic of emotions while the chimpanzees tucked into their morning snack. The film crew got some good footage of food sharing and grooming, and the interview went well, despite having to pause every once in a while to avoid the noise of aircraft landing at a nearby airstrip.

Unfortunately Prof. Dawkins had to leave as soon as the interview was done due to prior commitments in his busy US tour. But we did have time for one quick photograph (from left to right: Devyn Carter, Matthew Campbell, Frans de Waal, Richard Dawkins & Victoria Horner). All in all, the visit was a great success, although we were glad to get back into the warm, chimpanzees and humans alike.

— Victoria Horner