Apes bully too, yet it never escalates. What can we learn from this?

Workshop Beastly Bullies in Chester Zoo


Recently we have started with our Beastly Bullies

workshops in the UK.

Apemanagement was able to contribute to the

national Anti bullying week with a workshop at

Chester Zoo.

The national Anti-Bullying Week is an annual UK

event in the third week in November, organized

by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) which is made

up of about sixty member organizations.

As an ABA member, Apemanagement took part

in the initiative and invited interested parties from

Cheshire to a Beastly bullies workshop.


Teachers and head-teachers from a dozen schools and the Chair of Cheshire’s Primary Head teachers Association participated in our workshop at Chester Zoo, focussing on what primates can teach us about fighting bullying in the schoolyard.

The workshop was very successful and the idea behind Beastly Bullies was described by the participants as very interesting, unique and of added value.



Launching Beastly bullies in the UK


Teachers and head teachers from the Chester area gathered at the University of Chester on

the 1st May to attend a lecture on bullying.

This lecture was a special one though: it was about bullying amongst primates. You may ask

what teachers can learn from primates about bullying in the schoolyard. The answer is simple:

primates, and amongst them chimpanzees are our closest relatives and we have a lot of things

in common. We share over 98% of our genes, we are both very social and both of our behaviour

is partly determined by our genes. And as social creatures, we both bully members of our groups. But there is one very important difference: while In human societies bullying is an issue with sometimes severe and often long lasting consequences, it never escalates in primates. The Beastly bullies lecture focussed on this phenomenon: what can teachers learn from primates to fight bullying in the schoolyard more efficiently.


The new concept, originating from the Netherlands was introduced by Apemanagement® founder Patrick van Veen. The lecture started by Patrick introducing primates and their behaviour to the audience, with special attention to bullying, and its background. Why do primates bully each other? There is solid scientific evidence that helps answering this question: primates’ motivation to bully mainly originates from the desire to discover and learn. Does this mean that children bully for the same reason? We don’t know! It is surprising, especially concerning the severity of the issue, that there has been virtually no research done amongst schoolchildren to find out their motivation to bully. This is why Patrick, jointly with the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands does research in primary schools to learn more of children’s motivation to bully.


Besides teaching us of the background of bullying, observing primates can also help us recognising it. Apes have the very same behaviours around bullying to children, and they even have the same facial expressions! The lecture involved a short practical session when teachers had the opportunity to observe social behaviour amongst primates and amongst children and try to decide whether these interactions were bullying or not.

The lecture was interactive all through and the audience was lovely and active. They said that the lecture was “very interesting and gave lots of food for thought” and “fantastic and really enjoyable”. Teachers left the talk with plenty of new information and ideas to test at their schools.


Launching Beastly bullies went great and we are looking forward to spreading the new approach in the UK. We are now offering workshops on INSET days at various venues to help teachers and other professionals fight bullying more efficiently in their schools.


You missed the launch but would like to learn more of Beastly bullies or even attend one of our workshops? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to find out how we can help!



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