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May 5, 2024

An audio essay on human nature, followed by an interview with primatologist Dr. Susan Cheyne. Susan is the co-director of the Borneo Nature Foundation International and the Borneo River Initiative for Nature Conservation and Communities, she is the Vice Chair of the IUCN Section on Small Apes, and she is also a Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes; she has been studying gibbons for about 27 years. Our conversation is wide-ranging, but centers on gibbons. We discuss gibbon locomotion, life among gibbons, the nature and function of gibbon song, gibbon violence, monogamy, and infanticide (and lack thereof), and other subjects. Enjoy.

Dr. Cheyne's research: 

IUCN Section on Small Apes:



0:00 Are humans naturally monogamous?

17:27 Introducing today's subject and guest

20:25 Gibbon overview (interview starts)

31:57 Why do humans have twins?

34:02 A day in the life of a gibbon

38:57 Studying gibbons

40:37 Forgotten apes

44:06 Monogamy

1:09:27 Violence

1:11:34 Singing

1:17:49 Intelligence

1:23:28 Conservation


Sources relevant to the introduction: 

Stewart-Williams & Thomas | "The Ape That Thought It Was a Peacock" | 2013

Fisher | "The Anatomy of Love" | 2016

Ryan & Jethá | "Sex at Dawn" | 2010

Kramer | Pew Research | 2020

Marlowe | Behavioural Processes | 2000

Chapais | Evolutionary Anthropology | 2013

Schacht & Kramer | Sec Behavioral and Evolutionary Ecology | 2019

Shankman | "The Mead–Freeman Controversy Continues" | 2018 (I'm not sure if this view is correct; once again, you can find academics on both sides of this.)