Nature photographer Frans Lanting is in the spotlight with a new project that has just been launched online at National Geographic's website. The story, called "Almost Human," is about an unusual group of chimpanzees in southeast Senegal who are making scientists redraw the boundaries between apes and humans.
Lanting traveled to Senegal with filmmaker Chris Eckstrom, who shot video footage of the chimps. That video work will be included in a NOVA-National Geographic TV special called "Ape Genius," which airs tonight at 8:00 pm on PBS. You can bet I'll be watching. (Later I'll be going out to try to take a decent picture of the full lunar eclipse on the east coast.)
You can find an interview with Lanting (shown here with his wife and partner Christine) about the chimp project by going here. As he notes, the Fongoli chimps—so named because of a stream in the area—have been observed sharpening sticks into spears, with which they kill bush babies for food. This tool-making behavior has stunned scientists. The area is not the dense forest in which chimps are usually observed; rather, it is a savanna-woodland, much like the open terrain in which humans evolved. It's a fascinating piece.—David Schonauer