Some primate species consider eye contact a direct threat to them. However, chimpanzees are not one of them. In fact, some chimpanzees, particularly some of those who live in captivity, may enjoy gazing into someone’s eyes. We have a few of those individuals here at CSNW…. please let me introduce you to Honey B, if you aren’t familiar with her intense stares.
Some staff has made jokes that Honey B knows our entire life story, our full social security numbers, and our darkest secrets, just by looking into our souls (see photo above). Sometimes, Honey B will stare into my eyes during a meal time, and I can’t help but chuckle at her intensity.
Other chimpanzees like Gordo or Willy B have a list of 1,000,000 other things they would rather do than gaze into my eyes. And that’s okay! Eye contact is different to everybody.
While working with chimpanzees, I have been taught to “look” but not “stare”, as to not make the chimps feel uncomfortable in their own home. Just like humans can feel someone staring at them, chimps can too!