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Department of Archaeology



I obtained my MSc in Biology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands before attending the University of Cambridge, where I completed my PhD in Biological Anthropology in 2011 (St John’s College). Subsequently, I was a Junior Research Fellow at Homerton College and a Post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Archaeology & Anthropology at Cambridge. In 2014, I took up a Post-doctoral research position in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. During 2015-2016, I was a Visiting Post-doctoral Researcher in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University.

My research applies an interdisciplinary approach to investigating the evolution of tool use. Complex technology is a defining trait of our species. Human technological innovations have reshaped our planet and changed the impact of evolutionary forces upon our lives. Despite the enormous significance of human technology, the evolutionary origin of this complex use of tools is not well understood. By studying humans’ closest living relatives, the great apes, I hope to identify the processes driving the use of technology across ape species and, in turn, shed light on What makes us human?


Long-term Study of Seringbara Chimpanzees, Nimba Mountains

I have studied chimpanzees at my research site in the Nimba Mountains in Guinea (West Africa) since 2003 in collaboration with Kyoto University Primate Research Institute (KUPRI). In addition to investigating chimpanzee tool use, I work on topics including dietary adaptations, sociality, habitat use, population genetics, and conservation strategies in the Nimba Mountains.

Comparative Human and African Ape Research

During my Post-doctoral research, I used a comparative approach to investigate the drivers of tool use in the two species of apes most closely related to humans, the (tool-using) chimpanzee and the (non tool-using) bonobo. By comparing the material cultures of these two ape species I discovered that the intrinsic predisposition to interact with objects was critical in explaining the species difference in tool use. This research paved the way for my current project comparing tool use across all the African apes and human hunter-gatherers.

I currently direct the Comparative Human and Ape Technology (CHAT) Project, which investigates the influence of environmental, social and cognitive factors on the development of tool use in African apes and humans. This project compares chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and hunter-gatherers all living in the Congo Basin forest. By investigating the drivers of tool use across the African apes and humans, this project will shed new light on the evolutionary origins of human technology.

General ​Research Topics:

  • Tool use
  • Material culture
  • Evolution of technology
  • African great apes
  • Hunter-gatherers
  • Great ape conservation

Key Publications

Key publications: 

van Leeuwen, K.L., Matsuzawa, T., Sterck, E.H.M. and Koops, K. (2020) How to measure chimpanzee party size? A methodological comparison. Primates

Koops, K., Wrangham, R.W., Cumberlidge, N., Fitzgerald, M., van Leeuwen, K.L., Rothman, J.M. and Matsuzawa, T. (2019) Crab-fishing by chimpanzees in the Nimba Mountains, Guinea. Journal of Human Evolution 133: 230-241

Bibollet-Ruch, F., Russell, R.M., Liu, W., Stewart-Jones, G., Sherrill-Mix, Y.L., Learn, G.H., Smith, A.G., Gondim, M.V.P., Plenderleith, L.J., Decker, J.M., Easlick, J.L., Wetzel, K.S., Collman, R.G., Ding, S., Finzi, A., Ayouba, A., Peeters, M., Leendertz, F.H., van Schijndel, J., Goedmakers, A., Ton, E., Boesch, C., Kuehl, H., Arandjelovic, M., Dieguez, P., Murai, M., Colin, C., Koops, K., Speede, S., Gonder, M.K., Muller, M.N., Sanz, C.M., Morgan, D.B., Atencia, R., Cox, D., Piel, A.K., Stewart, F.A., Ndjango, J.N., Mjungu, D., Lonsdorf, E.V., Pusey, A.E., Kwong, P.D., Sharp, P.M., Shaw, G.M. and Hahn, B.H. (2019)  CD4 receptor diversity in chimpanzees protects against SIV infection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116: 3229-3238.

Fitzgerald, M., Coulson, R., Lawing, M., Matsuzawa, T. and Koops, K. (2018) Modeling habitat suitability for chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in the Greater Nimba Landscape, Guinea, West Africa. Primates 59: 361-375.

Koops, K., Schuppli, C. and van Schaik, C.P. (2018) Cultural primatology. In: The International Encyclopedia of Biological Anthropology. Edited by W. Trevathan. John Willey and Sons, Inc.

Wrangham, R.W., Worthington, S., Bernard, A.B., Koops, K., Machanda, Z.P. and Muller, M. (2017) Response to: Chimpanzee culture extends beyond matrilineal family units. Current Biology 27: 573-591.

Schuppli, C., Koops, K. and van Schaik, C.P. (2017) Cultural behaviour. In: The International Encyclopedia of Primatology. Edited by A. Fuentes. John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Wrangham, R.W., Koops, K., Machanda, Z.P., Worthington, S., Bernard, A.B., Brazeau, N.F., Donovan, R., Rosen, J., Wilke, C. Otali, E. and Muller, M. (2016) Distribution of a chimpanzee social custom is explained by matrilineal relationship rather than conformity. Current Biology 26: 3033-3037.

Van Schaik, C.P., Burkart, J., Damerius, L., Forss, S.I.F., Koops, K., van Noordwijk, M.A. and Schuppli, C. (2016) The reluctant innovator: Orangutans and the phylogeny of creativity. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 371: 20150183.

Koops, K., Furuichi T., Hashimoto, C. and van Schaik, C.P. (2015) Sex differences in object manipulation in immature chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) and bonobos (Pan paniscus): Preparation for tool use? PLOS ONE 10(10): e0139909.

Koops, K., Furuichi T. and Hashimoto, C. (2015) Chimpanzees and bonobos differ in intrinsic motivation for tool use. Scientific Reports 5: 11356.

Koops, K., Schöning, C., Isaji, M. and Hashimoto, C. (2015) Cultural differences in the length of ant-dipping tools between neighbouring chimpanzee communities at Kalinzu, Uganda. Scientific Reports 5: 12456.

Koops, K., Schöning, C., McGrew, W.C. and Matsuzawa, T. (2015) Chimpanzees prey on army ants at Seringbara, Nimba Mountains, Guinea: Predation patterns and tool characteristics. American Journal of Primatology 77: 319-329.

Furuichi, T.*, Sanz, C.*, Koops, K.*, Sakamaki, T., Ryu, H., Tokuyama, N. and Morgan, D. (2015) Why do wild bonobos not use tools like chimpanzees do? Behaviour 152: 425-460. * Shared first authors

Hashimoto, C., Isaji, M., Koops, K. and Furuichi, T. (2015) First records of tool-set use for ant-dipping in eastern chimpanzees in the Kalinzu Forest Reserve, Uganda. Primates 56: 301-305.

Koops, K., Visalberghi, E. and van Schaik, C.P. (2014) The ecology of primate material culture. Biology Letters 10: 20140508.

Wilson, M. L., Boesch, C., Furuichi, T., Gilby, I.C., Hashimoto, C., Hobaiter, C.L., Hohmann, G., Itoh, N., Koops, K., Lloyd, J., Matsuzawa, T., Mitani, J.C., Mjungu, D.C., Morgan, D., Muller, M.M., Nakamura, M., Pruetz, J.D., Pusey, A.E., Riedel, J., Sanz, C., Schel, A.M., Simmons, N., Waller, M., Watts, D.P., White, F.J., Wittig, R.M., Zuberbuhler, K. and Wrangham, R.W. (2014) Lethal aggression in Pan is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts. Nature 513: 414-417.

Koops, K., McGrew, W.C. and Matsuzawa, T. (2013) Ecology of culture: Do environmental factors influence foraging tool use in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus)? Animal Behaviour 85: 175-185.

Koops, K., McGrew, W.C., Matsuzawa, T. and Knapp, L. (2012) Terrestrial nest-building in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): Implications for the tree-to-ground sleep transition in early hominins. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 148: 351-361.

Koops, K., McGrew, W.C., de Vries, H. and Matsuzawa, T. (2012) Nest-building by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) at Seringbara, Nimba Mountains: Anti-predation, thermoregulation and anti-vector hypotheses. International Journal of Primatology 33: 356-380.

Koops, K. (2011) Chimpanzees in the Seringbara region of the Nimba Mountains. In: The Chimpanzees of Bossou and Nimba. T. Matsuzawa, T. Humle and Y. Sugiyama (Eds.). Springer, Tokyo, pp. 277-287.

Koops, K., McGrew, W.C. and Matsuzawa, T. (2010) Do chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) use cleavers and anvils to fracture Treculia africana fruits? Preliminary data on a new form of percussive technology. Primates 51: 175-178.

Biro, D., Humle, T., Koops, K., Sousa, C., Hayashi, M. and Matsuzawa, T. (2010) Chimpanzee mothers at Bossou, Guinea carry the mummified remains of their dead infants. Current Biology 20: R351-R352.

Möbius, Y., Boesch, C., Koops, K., Matsuzawa, T and Humle, T. (2008) Cultural differences in army ant predation by West African chimpanzees? A comparative study of microecological variables. Animal Behaviour 76: 37-45.

Koops, K., Humle, T., Sterck, E.H.M. and Matsuzawa, T. (2007) Ground-nesting in the chimpanzees of the Nimba Mountains, Guinea: Environmental or social determinants? American Journal of Primatology 69: 407-419.

Koski, S.E., Koops, K. and Sterck, E.H.M. (2007) Reconciliation, relationship quality and post-conflict anxiety: Testing the Integrated Hypothesis in captive chimpanzees. American Journal of Primatology 69: 158-172.

Koops, K. and Matsuzawa, T. (2006) Hand clapping by a chimpanzee in the Nimba Mountains, Guinea, West Africa. Pan African News 13: 19-21.


Other publications: 


Koops, K. (2015)  Chimps chose tools for angry ants. Scientriffic (Science magazine for children)

Koops, K. (2015) Ape technology. The Scholar, 2015 Issue (Annual journal of the Gates Cambridge Trust, Cambridge, UK)

Koops, K. (2012) Among apes: Studying chimpanzees in the African rainforest. Homertonian, Iss. 16, Homerton College Magazine                                     

Koops, K. (2010) Away from the bench: an ancestor’s tool – Kathelijne Koops roams the African rainforest to study chimpanzee culture. Bluesci, Issue 17, Cambridge University Science Magazine

Koops, K. (2007) Chimpansee onderzoek in de Nimba Mountains, Guinee, West Afrika. ZieZoo (Journal of Burgers’ Zoo, Arnhem, Netherlands)

Teaching and Supervisions




Research supervision: 


I am interested in supervising students who wish to study for an MPhil or a PhD on a variety of topics in Primatology, including:

  • Ape tool use and culture
  • Chimpanzee behaviour and ecology
  • Comparative research on ape and hunter-gatherer technology

I am currently supervising the following PhD student(s):

  • Maegan Fitzgerald (Kyoto University, advisory team)


Other Professional Activities

International Collaborator - The Leading Graduate Program in Primatology & Wildlife Science, Kyoto University, Japan

Member - Great Ape Section of Primate Specialist Group, IUCN Species Survival Commission

Job Titles

Honorary Research Associate, The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

General Info

Not available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Material Culture
Human Evolution
Cultural Evolution


Person keywords: 
Tool use
African apes
Primate behaviour and ecology
Ape conservation
Biological Anthropology
Material Culture
Human Evolutionary Studies
Geographical areas: