I have a soft spot for apes. Probably in no small part because I am one. Like, I could watch the movie Dunston Checks In on repeat all day. The film features the most lovable Pongo (orangutan) managing the cleverest of feats. Seeing this movie should be on everyone’s bucket list. But, I digress.
So, we already know that non-human apes can act in movies. This in itself warrants awe and ponderous reflection. However, if you’re like me, you’ve assumed all your life that apes are intrinsically innocent creatures, who go around grinning, nibbling on bananas, and carrying baby versions of themselves on their backs.
But, even if you’re not like me, you may still be surprised at what the latest science has shown about chimpanzees’ capacity to plan out devious acts ahead of time…. I.e., they’re not just mischievous, they plan ahead and lie in wait to spring their mischief. So maybe Rise of the Planet of the Apes isn’t the most far-fetched movie ever made?
In unison now: Awwwww. He looks like all he wants in this world is a jungle gym
and some fruit (I think that goes for us as well). Sure, if you’re at the zoo and you walk by he might throw a little rock or something at you, but where else is he going to get his fun? He just wants to be your friend!
… Or does he?
Research published last week out of Sweden involved watching a captive chimpanzee very, very closely. Here’s the short story of what they concluded: 1) Chimps like throwing things at people (hey, sometimes I do too), 2) Chimps will stockpile projectiles in advance, 3) Chimps will manufacture concealments for these projectiles ahead of time, 4) Chimps will make these hidden stashes right next to the visitor observation area, and 5) Chimps will modify their behavior so they make fewer displays of dominance, i.e., they’ll lull you into a false sense of comfort.
I would like to animate this for you:
I’m not one to tell people how to feel, but you should be impressed. Seriously, I don’t think a human kid could pull that off until he was at least 5 or 6 years old. So, y’know, don’t underestimate the next chimp you meet. He might have more planned for you than just grinning and somersaulting.
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Osvath, M., & Karvonen, E. (2012). Spontaneous Innovation for Future Deception in a Male Chimpanzee PLoS ONE, 7 (5) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036782