Why chimps love hugs and sympathy

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STRESS-BUSTING hugs from a close friend work wonders for chimpanzees as well as humans, scientists have learned.

Fighting between chimps often ends with a bystander stepping in to console the "victim" who has come off worst. The peacemaker, usually a valued friend of the injured party, provides a physical calming influence, research has shown.

This might involve wrapping arms around the victim, kissing, or grooming, said Dr Eolith Fraser, from Liverpool John Moores University, who outlined her research yesterday at the British Association Festival of Science at the University of Liverpool.

Her study at Chester Zoo showed for the first time that consoling reduced stress in chimp fight victims. Similar behaviour is seen in seven-year-old human children.