The BBC is all set to broadcast the world’s first film shot entirely by chimpanzees, as part of a natural history documentary.
According to BBC News, the apes created the movie using a specially designed chimp-proof camera given to them by primatologists. The filmmaking exercise is part of a scientific study into how chimpanzees perceive the world and each other. Making the movie was the idea of primatologist Betsy Herrelko, who is studying for a PhD in primate behaviour at the University of Stirling, UK. Over 18 months, she introduced video technology to a group of 11 chimpanzees living in a newly built enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo, UK. The enclosure, which contains three large interlinked outdoor arenas, as well as a series of smaller rooms in which the apes can be studied by researchers, is the largest of its kind in the world.
Despite the fact that the chimps had never taken part in a research project before, they soon displayed an interest in film-making.
Herrelko set the chimps two challenges. The first was to teach the chimps how to use a touchscreen to select different videos. By doing so, Herrelko could investigate which types of images chimps prefer to watch. The second challenge was to give the apes a ‘Chimpcam’, a recording camera housed in a chimp-proof box. On top of the box was a video screen that showed live images of whatever the camera was pointing at.
Gradually, the chimps started playing with the Chimpcam, carrying it around the enclosure. The chimps soon became interested in the camera view screen on the Chimpcam box, watching what happened as they moved the Chimpcam around filming new images. Overall, they were more interested in the Chipcam viewfinder than they were the touchscreen in the research room. The apes are unlikely to have actively tried to film any particular subject, or understand that by carrying Chimpcam around, they were making a film. However, the result, as well as providing new information on how chimps like to see the world, may yet go down in television history.
The movie made by the chimps will be screened within the Natural World programme Chimpcam shown on BBC Two on January 27.